New Detection Tool for Autism

Autism in children may be linked to delays in head control

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Early detection of autism is important because intervening early can increase the odds that children will succeed. New research shows that some warning signs at 6 months of age may help in early detection of autism.

A study in high-risk infants – those that had a sibling with autism – showed that children who were later diagnosed with autism were likely to have poor control of their heads at 6 months old.

A simple test of head control at 6 months may help doctors with early detection.

"Track all your child’s developmental steps."

A study by Rebecca Landa, PhD, at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, looked at two groups of children and their family risk for autism.

In the first group of 40 children who had a sibling with autism, Landa and colleagues measured the head control of children at 6, 14 and 24 months of age.  Later, when the children were approaching age 3, the children were tested for autism.

They found that 90 percent of these children, who were considered to be at high risk for autism, exhibited poor head control. However, 35 percent of children who did not later get a diagnosis of autism also showed poor head control at 6 months.

A second group of children were tested at six months for head control.  These children were classified as either high risk or low risk, based upon having a sibling with autism.

They found that 75 percent of high-risk children had head control issues at 6 months old. Only 33 percent of infants who were at low risk for autism had head control issues at 6 months old.

The researchers conclude that head control is not a way to diagnose autism in infants, but it is an easy method of detecting risk. 

Children who have head control issues at 6 months can be followed closely by doctors and parents, and this may improve early detection of autism in some children.

The results of these studies were presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research on May 18, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

The study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, which means other scientists may not have had a chance to review the methods and data to ensure it passes their quality standards.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 18, 2012
Last Updated:
July 30, 2012