Diagnosing Autism Through A Series of Tests: Claimed Accurate Results By 9 Months of Age
What if an easy and inexpensive test could predict the likelihood of your child developing Autism when performed at well-child appointments starting at the age of 3 months? What if this test performed with 100 percent accuracy? What if I tell you this may be a reality?
As early intervention is key to treating an Autistic child it would almost be a dream to be able to diagnose, with accuracy, before the age of 3 years. Being able to start early treatments before the age of 2 would be a game changer. It seems that a study from Boston Children's Hospital and Boston University seems to have made a major breakthrough in the early diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children. In other words, they may have just made this dream a reality... Per reports, their new study suggests that simply measuring a baby's brain activity through an electroencephalogram (EEG) from as early as three months of age could accurately predict the likelihood of the child developing ASD. Before you become an instant skeptic, read a little into it.
The Autism Study
This wasn’t a short-term study as it took place over the course of 36 months, starting at age 3 months. Researches took 188 infants and had EEG measurements taken at 3, 6, 9, 12, 18, 24 and 36 months of age. Just over half the group had a sibling that was diagnosed prior to the study and were therefore considered to be high-risk of developing ASD, while 89 acted as low-risk controls. The researchers developed computer algorithms to deeply analyze the six different wave components of the EEG measurements and the results were incredibly promising. In the end they were able to predict Autism with almost 100 percent accuracy by 9 months of age using this method.
‘"The results were stunning," explains William Bosl, from the Computational Health Informatics Program (CHIP) at Boston Children's. "Our predictive accuracy by nine months of age was nearly 100 percent. We were also able to predict ASD severity, as indicated by the ADOS Calibrated Severity Score, with quite high reliability, also by nine months of age."’
This kind of neural connectivity study is vitally important in the search for an early diagnosis measure for ASD. Researchers are continuously looking for better diagnostic measures for ASD as it is notoriously hard to accurately diagnose, as the condition is incredibly complex. It is believed that its onset is most likely due to an abstract combination of environmental conditions and genetics. Per reports, “this means that a simple biological biomarker found in blood, saliva or urine may not be an accurate or reliable measure of the condition at very early ages.”
Other measures that researchers are looking into are “blood tests to eye-tracking” Researchers are currently working hard to find ways to objectively detect the condition as early as possible. One of the most promising recent research avenues came in a study last year from the University of North Carolina, which revealed a potentially accurate way to use fMRI scans to predict ASD in babies as young as six months. Despite the research still being at an early stage, fMRI scans are “expensive, time-consuming and difficult to undertake on young babies, so not the most ideal diagnostic tool to easily roll out widely. Now the Boston-based team has revealed that successful diagnostic results could be obtained from a simple EEG, something already often used in developmental pediatric settings.”
"EEGs are low-cost, non-invasive and relatively easy to incorporate into well-baby checkups," says Charles Nelson, director of the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s Hospital and a co-author of the study. Making them more reasonable to use to detect Autism than MRIs. "We believe that infants who have an older sibling with Autism may carry a genetic liability for developing Autism," says Nelson. "This increased risk, perhaps interacting with another genetic or environmental factor, leads some infants to develop Autism – although clearly not all, since we know that four of five 'infant sibs' do not develop Autism." The ability to track a baby's neurodevelopment through simple EEG measures could offer physicians an accurate way to monitor the growing brain and allow for early interventions in cases of potential ASD diagnoses.
Until This Technology is Applied in Everyday Life… How Do You Tell If Your Child Has Autism?
There are early warning signs for Autism that you can be looking for as a parent. With babies and toddlers, the symptoms of Autism are about what the child “does NOT do at a typical age.” The symptoms listed below happen at a variety of ages, but they are all things that child with potential Autism may NOT do.
These symptoms include:
-Child does not make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed);
-Child does not smile when smiled at;
-Child does not respond to his or her name, or to the sound of a familiar voice;
-Child does not follow objects visually;
-Child does not point or wave goodbye, or use other gestures to communicate;
-Child does not follow your finger when you point at things;
-Child does not make noises to get your attention;
-Child does not initiate or respond to cuddling;
-Child does not reach out to be picked up.
If your child is not doing a number of these things by the age that they should be please contact a doctor and ask for a referral to a doctor that specializes in Autism. Do not let your family doctor treat your child’s Autism. You need a specialist or psychiatrist that knows about Autism. If you walk into the office and the therapist has never treated an Autistic child- I’d rethink the office that I am using. This is a complex disorder that carries with it complex needs, in most cases. It really is best to have a doctor that knows about this field. The wait lists to get into the doctors are sometimes very long though, a warning. It is worth the wait though.
Always research your options before you agree to any test or medication though. Know what you are getting yourself and your child into before you start any treatment. Research and ask around about anything that your doctor wants to start doing or stop doing with your child. Hit the support groups and world wide web with gusto to get the information you need to make an informed decision about care. Being rather noninvasive and having the ability to be incorporated into well-baby check-ups is incredibly promising though. I think an EEG would be a wonderful tool to be able to start using to diagnose Autism, especially if they claim they can do it with almost 100 percent accuracy by 9 months of age. This study is life changing (if the claims prove true.)