Study: Signs of autism may show up as early as first month
As part of the study, researchers tracked babies and toddlers' responses to videos showing actresses playing a caregiver.
November 6th, 2013
02:11 PM ET

Study: Signs of autism may show up as early as first month

The first signs of autism may be visible as early as the first month of a child's life, according to a study published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature.

"These are the earliest signs of autism ever observed," says lead study author Warren Jones.

Researchers at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta followed 110 children from birth to age 3, at which point a diagnosis of autism was ascertained. Fifty-nine babies were considered "high risk" for developing an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) because they had siblings with autism; 51 were considered "low risk" because they did not have first, second or third-degree relatives with ASD.

Data was collected at 2, 3, 4 ,5, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 24 months of age. Each time, the children watched videos showing actresses playing the role of a caregiver. "Every baby watched the same videos, and then we could measure what was different about the responses of infants later diagnosed with autism versus infants who were typically-developing," Jones says.

Lack of eye contact is one of the red flags when it comes to autism - a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

Jones, who is the director of research at Marcus Autism Center and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, says he really expected the children later diagnosed with autism would have diminished eye contact from birth. Instead, he and his colleagues measures how much time each baby was looking at the eyes of the caregiver in the video.

"Basically from birth, (all) babies will look more at the eye part of faces," says Jones. But at about 4 to 6 weeks, he says the attention to eyes decreases, then in typical babies picks up again at 2 months. Jones found, "in the first 6 months of life we're seeing a decline in the amount of looking at other people's eyes in children who later are diagnosed with autism."

The research suggests that a baby's initial eye contact ability may be an almost a reflex-like behavior, but then there may be a second phase of development that depends on different brain and gene systems which lead to social interaction, Jones says. That's where a typically developing child's development may differ from a child with autism.

The study authors conclude that "the observation of this decline in eye fixation - rather than outright absence - offers a promising opportunity for early intervention."

This is not something parents are going to see by just holding their baby, Jones points out.  This type of eye-tracking requires sophisticated technology that can track even the slightest movement of the eye.

"It's a very interesting study with intriguing results. " says Wendy Stone, a longtime autism researcher and director of the Research in Early Autism Detection & Intervention (READI) lab at the University of Washington. But, she adds, "many researchers in this field have not seen behaviors under 6 months to be predictive of later diagnosis."

She also cautions that babies looking at videos of their mothers are not the same as the actual stimuli created by a mom interacting with her baby. "Are these babies less interested in eyes because mouths are more interesting to look at and more attractive because there's more movements? To me that's one of the big questions," says Stone.

Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist and autism specialist at the Rainbow and Babies Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, says this new study is a continuation of previous work in babies. He says this research makes sense to him. "There's a decrease in the amount of attention to eyes as an early marker of social behavior (think of it as a primitive level of socialization)." Wiznitzer suggests the failure to establish these early social skills has ramifications later as "social behavior shifts into more sophisticated patterns."

If this research bears out, then maybe at some point a pediatric practice could track eye movements as one way to diagnose a child with autism, says Stone. "But we're really, really far away from that."

Wiznitzer says this may explain why the autism symptoms may be more apparent at 18 to 24 months, "even though 'subclinical' onset was months earlier." He also suggests these study results may offer another explanation why the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, which isn't administered until a baby is at least 12 months old, cannot be blamed for causing autism.

Everyone agrees this research needs to be replicated in bigger studies with more children, Wiznitzer says. "The authors are correct that a replication study using a larger number (of children) is necessary. Before that time, I would not devote extensive resources towards assessing eye attention in infants or designing major intervention programs."

Jones says, "what we really want to do is create growth charts for social behavior, just like we have growth charts for charting a child's height and weight." He says these those are the kind of tools that pediatricians need and parents are looking for.

soundoff (1,698 Responses)
  1. Welding Fab

    Your style is really unique compared to other folks I've read stuff from. Thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I'll just bookmark this page.


    May 19, 2021 at 11:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. gifts for mom with newborn


    May 19, 2021 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. collision center of temecula


    May 19, 2021 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Solar Panels Systems Los Angeles


    May 19, 2021 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sprinter Van Side Repair


    May 19, 2021 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Pump Windshield Washer Sprinter Repair


    May 19, 2021 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Mercedes Sprinter Service


    May 19, 2021 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RebfZisse

    buy cialis 20 mg https://rcialisgl.com/ – buy cialis online cialis best price

    May 19, 2021 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Yessenia Stahlecker

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these second life authors and blogs


    May 19, 2021 at 19:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Internet Marketing Consultants

    Hello! I simply wish to give you a huge thumbs up for the excellent info you've got here on this post. I'll be returning to your blog for more soon.


    May 19, 2021 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RebfZisse

    dapoxetine and cialis https://rcialisgl.com/ paypal cialis online

    May 19, 2021 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RV TV Near Me

    Great article. I am facing a few of these issues as well..


    May 19, 2021 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. rv remodeling companies

    Hello there, I do think your blog could be having browser compatibility problems. When I take a look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in IE, it's got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Apart from that, wonderful website!


    May 19, 2021 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Internet Marketing Experts


    May 20, 2021 at 01:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. SEO Marketing Company


    May 20, 2021 at 01:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. SEO Marketing Agency

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The problem is something that not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. Now i'm very happy I stumbled across this during my search for something regarding this.


    May 20, 2021 at 03:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Content Marketing Services


    May 20, 2021 at 03:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Video Marketing Agency


    May 20, 2021 at 03:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Google Marketing Experts


    May 20, 2021 at 04:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. LebnEncox

    trusted canadian pharmacy pharmacy no prescription required peoples drug store

    May 20, 2021 at 04:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Local Marketing Business


    May 20, 2021 at 05:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. SEO Marketing Companies


    May 20, 2021 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Internet Marketing Business

    This is the perfect website for anybody who really wants to understand this topic. You understand so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I personally will need to…HaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a subject that has been written about for years. Excellent stuff, just wonderful!


    May 20, 2021 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Content Marketing Experts


    May 20, 2021 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Internet Marketing Consultants Near Me


    May 20, 2021 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. LbsoZisse

    800 mg cialis http://ucialisdas.com/ local generic cialis in united states

    May 20, 2021 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RV Cabinet Los Angeles

    May I just say what a comfort to uncover an individual who truly understands what they are discussing on the net. You certainly realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people should look at this and understand this side of the story. I can't believe you are not more popular given that you surely possess the gift.


    May 20, 2021 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Upgrades Orange County


    May 20, 2021 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. RV Fiberglass Near Me


    May 20, 2021 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. rv parts riverside ca

    I blog quite often and I seriously appreciate your information. This great article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to bookmark your website and keep checking for new information about once a week. I subscribed to your Feed too.


    May 20, 2021 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Arianne Devos

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these second life websites and blogs


    May 20, 2021 at 18:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. GtnbCrulk

    buy viagra online https://jokviagra.com/ how much does viagra cost at walgreens

    May 20, 2021 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Service B Mercedes Sprinter


    May 20, 2021 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Digital Marketing Near Me

    A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. I do believe that you should publish more on this subject, it may not be a taboo matter but usually folks don't discuss such issues. To the next! Many thanks!!


    May 20, 2021 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. rv furniture companies

    Great information. Lucky me I came across your website by chance (stumbleupon). I have bookmarked it for later!


    May 20, 2021 at 19:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Sprinter Van Inside Computer Repair Shop

    Howdy! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this. I'll send this information to him. Pretty sure he will have a very good read. Thank you for sharing!


    May 20, 2021 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. RV Plumbing Near Me

    I really like it whenever people get together and share opinions. Great website, continue the good work!


    May 20, 2021 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. orange county tire


    May 20, 2021 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. GtnbCrulk

    black market viagra http://jokviagra.com/ viagra dosage

    May 21, 2021 at 00:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Sprinter Side Door Repair


    May 21, 2021 at 01:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. RV Shower Near Me

    Saved as a favorite, I like your web site!


    May 21, 2021 at 01:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Repair My 2006 Dodge Sprinter 3500 Rv


    May 21, 2021 at 01:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. rv generator repair

    You should take part in a contest for one of the finest websites on the web. I am going to recommend this web site!


    May 21, 2021 at 03:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. furniture repair shop near me

    There is definately a great deal to know about this topic. I like all of the points you have made.


    May 21, 2021 at 05:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. BbshMile

    black market viagra http://loxviagra.com/ chinese herb viagra

    May 21, 2021 at 05:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Repair Cost On Mercedes Sprinter Van


    May 21, 2021 at 05:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RV Paint Shop Los Angeles

    I couldn’t resist commenting. Perfectly written!


    May 21, 2021 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. rv repair shop near me


    May 21, 2021 at 08:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. شركة تنظيف مكيفات بالرياض

    hey there and thank you for your info – I have certainly picked up something new from right here.

    I did however expertise a few technical issues using this website, since I experienced to reload the web site
    lots of times previous to I could get it to load correctly.
    I had been wondering if your hosting is OK?
    Not that I am complaining, but sluggish loading instances times will very frequently affect your placement in google and could damage your high quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords.
    Well I'm adding this RSS to my e-mail and could look out
    for a lot more of your respective exciting content.
    Make sure you update this again very soon.

    May 21, 2021 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Content Marketing Company


    May 21, 2021 at 10:35 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33

Leave a Reply to satta king


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.