A prospective study, published in the November 6th issue of Nature, which followed 110 children from birth to age 3 years, showed that those who had a subsequent diagnosis of ASD started life with relatively normal attention to others’ eyes. However, their eye fixation began to decline between the ages of 2 and 6 months and continued declining to the study’s end at 3 years of age. This pattern was not observed in typically developing children.
Deficits in eye contact have been a hallmark of autism but the onset of these has not been studied before. Dr Warren Jones, PhD, director of research at the Marcus Autism Center With Children’s Healthcare Center of Atlanta, and Emory University School of Medicine, indicated that this study “…has helped us to identify the earliest signs of autism that we’ve ever observed. And it gives us some proof that it’s possible to identify these signs within the first few months of life”.