Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Repeat autism screening recommended for at-risk children

In Brief

Repeat autism screening recommended for at-risk children

Younger siblings of children diagnosed with autism, who are at higher-than-normal risk for developing the disorder themselves, should be screened around the time of both their first and second birthdays. That is one implication of a new study that followed at-risk siblings over time to determine patterns of development.

Researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute Center for Autism and Related Disorders evaluated and tested 125 infants periodically from age 14 to 36 months to determine patterns of social interactions and communication. Confirming the findings of earlier retrospective studies, which relied on the memories of parents or the analysis of home movies, the researchers found that some children later diagnosed with autism clearly exhibited abnormalities by their first birthday, while others did not show such abnormalities until their second birthday.

The authors suggest that autism involves a continuum of impairment, with abnormalities developing in different children at different times within the first three years of life.

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