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Playing Peek-A-Boo With Infants Could Help Diagnose Autism Earlier

There is no denying the fear that revolves around the word "autism" as soon as you are pregnant or have children. It's scary because the only way to detect this disorder currently is through behavioral observation, leaving doctors with really only the opportunity to diagnose during the toddler years when their personalities are much more present and forthcoming. Though, some groundbreaking research has just been made public, demonstrating that through playing peek-a-boo with newborns, doctors may be able to diagnose autism sooner than ever before.

The research was published in the European Journal of Neuroscience and showed that until now, if a child's brain responds less than they should to a stimulating game they are more likely to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as toddlers. But through this latest research, scientists used neuroimaging technology to compare the brain activity of infants faced with social and non-social stimuli meaning that something like a game of peek-a-boo, yawning and laughter could help show autism indicators earlier.

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The lower their response to these games can show signs that the newborn will have a  greater risk of having autism as a toddler. This is so incredibly groundbreaking because it is the first research of its kind to show that functional brain responses before the age of six months are associated with later ASD diagnosis. We think that all autism parents would agree that they would have wished to be able to have the autism diagnose earlier and this will hopefully give future parents that power so that the child's quality of life and education can be more dramatically impacted.

Credit: iStock / TMRoberts

The studies lead author, Dr. Sarah Lloyd-Fox, from Birkbeck, University of London, said that “Identifying early patterns of altered development which may later associate with ASD is important, because it will allow doctors to offer earlier interventions and provide families with earlier avenues for support. This might mean giving the child and parents new strategies to reengage their attention towards important social cues and learn different ways of interacting.”

And even though something like playing peek-a-boo with your baby may not immediately signify the early signs of autism, it could, however, have an indication of how a child's reaction during a highly socially developmental time in their lives could lead to them developing autism later on. This is a powerful tool for parents and doctors alike.

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