The Autism News

Authors: The Autism News

By Abby Phillip | The Washington Post

The brains of children and adolescents with severe autism react differently to certain audio-visual stimuli than children and adolescents without autism, according to a new study. The findings have the potential to lead to a more objective and accurate diagnostic tools for the disorder.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University, found that a brain wave test shows promising signs of being an accurate biomarker for autism. The results were published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities on Monday.

“Ultimately, we’re on the road to developing measures of brain activity that will help to diagnose or recognize autism,” said Sophie Molholm, the study’s co-author and associate professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “A major goal of autism research is to develop these kind so measure so we can diagnose this disorder as quickly as possible.

“As well as trying to say something about what are the strengths and weaknesses of these people, you want to be able to identify them at that stage so that you can begin early intervention.”

The number of U.S. children with autism has surged to 1 in 68, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in March. Just two years ago, the CDC estimated that 1 child in 88 suffered from the disorder.

Currently, children who are diagnosed with autism undergo extensive evaluation by doctors and specialists who are experts at identifying the signs. Autistic symptoms can be present in children as young as 6 months, but particularly at the younger ages, those symptoms can sometimes be hard to distinguish from other conditions.

Add to that the fact that symptoms of autism can vary dramatically from patient to patient, and the subjective nature of the diagnostic tools currently available to clinicians leave plenty room for error.

The current “gold standard” of autism diagnostics for researchers includes collecting an extensive developmental history from parents, as well sessions with a doctor who can directly observe the child’s actions. They look for things like repetitive behavior, having a restricted interest in a single topic or subject, as well as impaired social communication.

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