Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pediatricians urged to use autism checklist

The National Institutes of Health has developed a 24-item checklist for autism that can be used for babies as young as one year old.

The checklist can be completed by parents in a few minutes while waiting in a pediatrician's office. It asks simple questions such as whether a baby smiles and shows joy at 6 months; makes eye contact; whether the baby is babbling by 12 months; or can speak any words at 16 months.

So far, it has allowed researchers to diagnose autism spectrum disorders correctly 75 percent of the time.

It is important to begin therapy as early as possible while babies' brains are growing and most easily shaped. During early life, the brain circuitry that supports social and language behavior is rapidly developing and shaped by experiences.

Early intervention draws the infant's attention to others and engages them in pleasurable interactions. It increases opportunities for learning and for more normal brain development.
Image: Rawich / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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