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Simple Test Helps Spot Autism in Infants, Study Suggests - featured April 28, 2011

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[Source: Reuters]

A five-minute screening test could help detect autism in babies at 12 months of age, giving parents and doctors far more time to intervene, U.S. researchers said Thursday.

The study is the first to show that a simple screening tool could be used to detect autism in infants, said Dr. Lisa Gilotty, who heads the autism program at the National Institute of Mental Health, which funded the study.

"The benefit of this study is children get into treatment much earlier than they would otherwise," Karen Pierce of the University of California, San Diego, whose study appears in the Journal of Pediatrics, said in a telephone interview.

Autism, a complex and mysterious brain disorder, strikes one in 110 children in the United States and affects four times as many boys as girls.

The disorder is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication and understanding other people's emotions and behavior.

It is usually first diagnosed in early childhood, around the age of 3, and recent studies have shown that the earlier that children are diagnosed and treated, the better they do.

"There is extensive evidence that early therapy can have a positive impact on the developing brain," Pierce said in a statement.

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Tags: News of the Week Autism Newsletter 29 April 2011