Researchers have identified head circumference and head tilting reflex as two reliable biomarkers in the identification of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children that are between 9 and 12 months of age. ASD is identifiable as early as two years old, although most children are not identified until after the age of four. While a number of studies have reported that parents of children with ASD notice developmental problems in children before their first birthday, there has yet to be a screening tool to identify those children.
Studies have shown an increased head circumference and the absence of the head tilt reflex as possible risk factors for autism spectrum disorder, allowing for early detection at 12 months in typically developing population of infants. Our aim was to develop a screening tool to identify infants prior to 12 months at risk for autism spectrum disorder and developmental learning delay, not affected by literacy or primary parental language, and provide immediate determination of risk for autism spectrum disorder. An abrupt head circumference acceleration and the absence of head tilt reflex by 9 months were used to identify infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder. Stability of early findings was then investigated when compared to comprehensive standardized neurodevelopmental assessment results and complete neurological and genetics evaluations. A total of 1024 typically developing infants were enrolled by 9 months, with 14 identified as at risk for autism spectrum disorder and 33 for developmental learning delay. There was a good positive predictive value for the identification of autism spectrum disorder prior to 12 months. This study demonstrates an efficient means to identify infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder by 9 months of age and serves to alert primary care providers of infants who are vulnerable for autism spectrum disorder before symptoms are discernible by clinical judgment of primary care providers, parental concerns, or by screening questionnaires.
- New Method of Screening Children for Autism Spectrum Disorders Works at 9 Months Old, Year Sooner than Average Screening Age, ChildrensNational, NewsReleases, April 14, 2014
- Full text: Identification of infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder and developmental language delay prior to 12 months, The National Autistic Society, SAGE Publications, Feb 18, 2014