Autism, Autism Tests & Diagnosis

The BBC is reporting that a simple name test for infants could predict autism. In a study researches found that 100% of a control group of children responded to their name. In a larger group of ‘at risk’ children, only 86% responded. The families were contacted again at 24 months and three quarters of the children who had failed the test at 12 months had developmental problems, mostly with autism.

Such simple and effective tests for autism are vital. Early and intensive treatment of autism makes a big impact on the long-term prospects. For more information see: Signs of Autism in Toddlers and Infants.

The full study on the name test appeared in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine: A Prospective Study of Response to Name in Infants at Risk for Autism.

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Over the last few weeks this website has been attracting comments from various members and ex-members of staff of the Dore Achievement Centres. This has come to the attention of the CEO of UK branch, Bob Clarke, who has posted comments on Myomancy and also to Wynford Dore himself who has phoned me. Conversations with Wynford are always enjoyable but challenging because Wynford believes so passionately about what he does. So when Myomancy runs a negative story about the Dore Program he tends to forget all the places on Myomancy where I’ve said the Dore Program works and that it changes lives.

In light of all this I thought it wise to make a clear statement to all my readers about why I devote a considerable amount of time and money to running Myomancy.

  • The goal of Myomancy is to provide independent information on treatments for dyslexia, ADHD and autism so that parents and sufferers can make an informed choice about what is the best approach for them.
  • Myomancy is a blog, a personal web site. It represents my views and my views alone on all things connected with ADHD, dyslexia and Autism.
  • These views are researched and expressed on Myomancy to the best of my abilities but I am not a scientist, teacher or a professional writer. I am just someone who’s life was changed by the Dore Program and felt a need to express myself.
  • I believe in free speech which is why I allow anyone to post comments on the articles regardless of whether they are for or against my views. Only post that are illegal or purely offensive are removed.
  • Myomancy generates a small amount of income for advertising. I would like it to be more so that I can afford to spend more time on Myomancy. It is up to the reader to decide what, if any, impact that has on the independence of Myomancy.

With reference to the above I have removed one comment from the website that is highly critical of the Dore Program and, based on additional evidence I have at my disposal, is completely false.

Autism, Autism Tests & Diagnosis

Mind Hacks has some details on a study that links the size of your head at birth to your IQ. Last year, Myomancy covered a study linking head size to autism.
The implications of both these studies are significant if their findings are confirmed. It might gives us a way of identifying those babies at risk of autism. It may also give rise to less desirable behaviour such as parents worrying that their child’s normal size head means that the child won’t be smart.

Autism, Autism Tests & Diagnosis

The BBC is reporting that one in 100 British children may have some form of autism. This figure comes from research by Dr Gillian Baird who is a Consultant Developmental Paediatrician at Guy’s Hospital in London.

Researchers from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in south London, publishing their findings in the Lancet, looked at a group of 57,000 children aged nine and 10 in 2001.
Current provision for those with the disability is deeply inadequate given the scale of the need Mike Collins, National Autistic Society
They identified 255 who had already been diagnosed as having autistic disorders and 1,515 judged to be possible undetected cases.
A randomly selected sub-group of 255 children was chosen for in-depth clinical assessment.
The prevalence of “classic” childhood autism was 39 per 10,000, and that of other ASDs 77 per 10,000.
In total, autistic disorders affected 116 per 10,000 children.
The researchers extrapolated their findings to suggest one in 100 British children may have some form of autism.

The research has been published in The Lancet. I don’t have access to the full study so its not clear how they identified autism and autistic spectrum disorders. This is the key to the research. Are they throwing the net so large they are catching dyslexics or people with ADHD?

Autism, Autism Tests & Diagnosis

With autism, early detection and treatment is critical but what should parents be on the look out for?

The average age for an autism diagnosis is between three and four years old. Yet many parents first become concerned around 18 months old. This age coincides with some vaccinations and has caused many parents to blame the vaccinations for autism. However research over the last few years has indicate that many autistic children show signs of autism in their first year.

So what symptoms of autism should you look for in infants and toddlers?

Firstly, is the child hitting all the normal milestones of development? There is an excellent guide from the Centre of Disease Control that gives all these milestones from birth to five years (Learn the Signs). Your doctor or health professional will be able to give you more information. The difficulty in detecting autism is that some children do develop slower than other so being a few weeks late reaching one particular milestone is nothing to worry about. When a child is late over a range of these milestones then seek advice.

Research in the last few years has highlight other symptoms of autism to watch for in early development. Much of this work has been done by using home videos taken sometime before the child is diagnosed. Often these are from the baby’s first birthday because its an occasion many parents video. The movement and behaviour of the child is analysed and compared to similar videos of children who are not autistic.

What these videos reveal is that even at one year old, autistic children have different patterns of behaviour. They lack or rarely use the ‘social gaze’, the process of looking at someone when giving them attention. ‘Joint Attention’, when parent and child are both giving their attention to the same object or person, is also rarer. These early signs forewarn of the two of most notable symptoms of autism, a lack of empathy for others and a tendency to withdraw into a world of their own.

One of the distinctive symptoms of full blown autism is the child’s patterns of movement. Clumsiness, violent outbursts and repetitive movements are all common in autism. So researchers looked at how the infant moved to see if any signs of later problems can be detected.

One study noted that the autistic child still showed signs of retained primitive reflexes. These reflexes are present at birth and help the infant brain learn to move their body. For example, the grasp reflex is what triggers the curling of a baby’s fingers around an object placed in its palm. Other reflexes help the baby to roll over and learn to crawl. During normal development these reflexes drop away as the infant grows but in some children they are retained. This makes it harder for the infant or child to control their body because moving one limb may reflexively make another move. Making the child appear uncoordinated or clumsy.

There is growing evidence that it is possible to spot autism in infants. It may not be possible to formally diagnose autism at this stage but if the signs are their at infancy it best to assume the worse and begin treatment. Early intervention can make a significant difference to a later development.

Previously on Myomancy: Autism Tests & Diagnosis; Is This Why We Have Primitive Reflexes?

Recommend Reading: First Signs especially their screening tools for Autism

Research: Infants With Autism: An Investigation of Empathy, Pretend Play, Joint Attention, and Imitation [ PDF ]; Early recognition of children with autism: A study of first birthday home videotapes; Early recognition of 1-year-old infants with autism spectrum disorder versus mental retardation; Movement analysis in infancy may be useful for early diagnosis of autism; Infantile Reflexes Gone Astray in Autism [ PDF ]; Toddlers With Autism: Developmental Perspectives.; The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers: An Initial Study Investigating the Early Detection of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Autism, Autism Tests & Diagnosis

On Myomancy we have covered autism diagnosis at twelve months and six months. Now we have autism diagnosis in the womb.

DIAGNOSING AUTISM FROM THE WOMB? A new study from researchers at the Yale School of Medicine offers a provocative idea: Doctors may be able to predict autism in a baby by testing the placenta at birth. Researchers tested the placentas of 13 children with autism and compared them with placentas from healthy children. They found a microscopic abnormality that was three times as common in children with autism, suggesting a possible way to test for an increased likelihood of autism in new babies. However, such a test remains hypothetical at this point. Next, researchers plan to do a larger study to see whether their results are confirmed in a bigger sample of children. These results were published this week in Biological Psychiatry.

I’ve been unable to track down the actual research so please apply the usual pinch of salt to this story

Diagnosing Autism From the Womb?

Autism, Autism Tests & Diagnosis

A press release relating to an not-yet-published study looks at how children diagnosed with autism aged two are diagnosed when they are nine.

Of the 172 children who were examined at age 9 years, 58 percent had a best-estimate diagnosis of autism, an increase from the 49 percent diagnosed at age 2 years. Overall, 67 percent of the best-estimate diagnoses were the same at age 2 years and age 9 years. More specifically, 76 percent of those diagnosed with autism at age 2 received the same diagnosis at age 9, and 90 percent of those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at age 2 received a diagnosis of autism or an autism spectrum disorder at age 9. Parent interviews, observation scale scores and clinicians’ judgment at age 2 years each independently predicted a diagnosis of autism at age 9 years, with clinical judgment most strongly linked.

Most Children Diagnosed with Autism at Age 2 Years Have Condition at Age 9

Autism, Autism and Mercury, Autism Tests & Diagnosis

In a reproduction of a 1987 study, researches have demonstrated that intensive one-to-one training can have a dramatic impact on autistic children. Working with 24 autistic children for 40 hours a week over four years the researchers lifted the children’s IQ by an average of 22 points. Eight of the children had an increase of 45 points, lifting the children into the normal range of IQ. Interestingly, though the children were of well matched before the start of the study their improvement could be clearly grouped into rapid learners and moderate learners. It would be interesting to know if this is linked to this research on Different Types of Autism: Complex and Essential.
The importance of early detection and intensive intervention of at least 25 hours has been shown in other studies. The result from these treatments is at least as good if not better than those claimed by cheatlation, a treatment with little scientific evidence to back it up. Though intensive intervention is expensive, it is cheap compared to the cost of leaving an autistic children untreated so that they need 24 hour care for the rest of their lives.
Papers: Replicating Lovaas’ Treatment and Findings: Preliminary Results, Intensive Behavioral Treatment for Children with Autism: Four Year Outcome, Residual Symptoms and Predictors
Archives: Autism, Autism Testing & Diagnosis

Autism, Autism and Mercury, Autism Tests & Diagnosis, Science

A new study throws an interesting light on the autism and mercury link. Researchers examined the size of autistic children’s brains using fMRI scanners and found that autistic children had larger brains. The greatest volume increases was in the temporal lobe, an area of the brain involved in language. They also examined head measurements of autistic and non-autistic children and the data suggests that enlarged head size is not present at birth and that the onset of enlarged head size in autistic children begins, on average, at around 12 months. According to researcher Cody Hazlett “These findings, together with our brain volume data, give us reason to believe that a period of brain overgrowth in autism may occur between 12 months and 2 years of age“.
This study is important to the autism / vaccine / mercury debate because it indicates that the development of autistic traits, in this case a large head and brain, starts after birth but before most children are vaccinated. This suggests that if mercury does cause autism the children do not acquire it via the mother in utero or via vaccination. The apparently rapid decline in to autism that parents have reported in their children shortly after vaccination could be explained in two different ways. Firstly it might be coincidental and that the growth in the brain reaches a crisis or tipping point six months after the growth began. This would be around 18 months old, the same age that many children get immunised. The second explanation is that the immediate bad reaction some children experience after vaccination is the final straw for a child whose bodily functions are already struggling to cope with an unnaturally fast growing brain. After which the brain and body crashes into a downward spiral leading to autism.
The location in the brain this growth occurs is also significant. The temporal lobes have significant roles in speech and hearing. The lobes also surround the hippocampi and these are important in emotion and memory. All the obvious and recognisable symptoms of autism can be explained by problems in these areas of the brain. Thus the findings of the study fit well with our understanding of the brain and autism.
A final thought on this study. If autistic children’s heads grow larger than non-autistic children could we not have growth charts for the head in the same way we monitor a child’s height and weight? If a child’s head is larger that average at 12 months then they could be closely watched and at the very first signs of autism, intervention can begin. This would provide a cheap and early way of detecting autism, something that is vital for their long-term development.
Original Press Release. Study abstract: Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Head Circumference Study of Brain Size in Autism
Previous coverage on Myomancy of the Autism and Mercury debate.

Autism, Autism Tests & Diagnosis, Web/Tech

That is probably one of the strangest headlines I’ve ever used but its true. Brian Scassellati an assistant professor at Yale University, USA is developing a robot to work with autistic children.
Its long been observed that autistic children do not make eye contact the way that other children do. By making a humanoid robot for children to interact with, Mr Scassellati is hoping develop diagnostic tests that will work on children as young as twelve months old. Current diagnostic tests require the child to be older so the presence or absence of certain social skills can be detected. However the use of eye contact develops very early in a child’s life and with a robot a standardised test can be development.
The Post Gazette has a good write-up of the work: Robotic toys may one day diagnose autism and there is more information on Mr Scassellati’s research page.