Health + Safety

Study: Baby’s Gaze Could Signal Autism Risk

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baby eyes

A baby’s gaze could carry the first signs of autism, according to a new study that suggests the developmental disorder disrupts the desire for eye contact.

Atlanta researchers used eye-tracking technology to study how babies respond to social cues between birth and the age of 3, and found that infants later diagnosed with autism paid less attention to the eyes of others.

“These results reveal that there are measurable and identifiable differences present already before six months,” study author Ami Klin, director of the Atlanta-based Marcus

Autism Center, said in a statement adding that the findings “have the potential to dramatically shift the possibilities for future strategies of early intervention.”

The study was published today in the journal Nature.

Autism is currently diagnosed based on careful observation of a child’s behavior, social skills and ability to communicate. But researchers have long been looking for subtler signs with hopes of intervening sooner.

“By following these babies from birth, and intensively within the first six months, we were able to collect large amounts of data long before overt symptoms are typically seen,” study lead author Warren Jones, director of research for the Marcus Autism Center, said in a statement.

But Jones cautioned that parents should not go looking for such subtle signs or be discouraged if their babies sometimes avoid eye contact.