Your 6 Month Old May Be ‘At Risk’ For Autism

Two recently published studies offer new evidence as to how autism can be detected based on what young children look at and how. 

But I think we need to start focusing as much on the needs of older and adult autistic persons as we currently do on young children and on infants ‘at risk’ for autism.

A study in the September 6th Archives of General Psychiatry reports that a preference for looking at geometric patterns — over other children in motion — may be a ‘novel and easily detectable early signature of infants and toddlers at risk for autism.’  Further, a study in the September Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry has found that infants who were at risk for being diagnosed with autism were less likely to look at their parents spontaneously. (Infants are deemed at ‘risk’ of being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder if they have an autistic sibling–children with an autistic sibling have a 1 in 5 chance of also being autistic.)

In the Archives of General Psychiatry study, 110 toddlers were shown a one-minute movie which contained moving geometric patterns on one side of a video monitor and, on the other side, children in ‘high action,’ dancing or doing yoga. Researchers used eye tracking technology to determine ‘preferential looking paradigm, total fixation duration and the number of saccades [eye movements].’ In the final analysis, 37 of the toddlers were diagnosed with autism and 22 with developmental delay; the remaining 51 were shown to have typical development. The children who were found to be autistic had fewer saccades while watching the geometric patterns and more saccades while watching the videos of children. Such geometric patterns had a sort of ‘”hypnotic effect”‘ on the autistic children, according to lead study author Karen Pierce, an assistant professor of neuroscience at University of California, San Diego, and clinical research director at the UCSD Autism Center of Excellence. 

The other study was conducted under Rebecca Landa, director of the Center for Autism & Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute. As noted in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50 infants (as young as 6 months old) were observed playing with a toy while their caregivers were nearby. 25 of the children had autistic siblings and these babies were more fixated on the toy than on their caregiver, whom they spent less time looking at. (More reporting on this study can be found in the September 3rd BusinessWeek, and on both studies in the September 7th BusinessWeek.)  

My 13-year-old son Charlie was our first child, so he would not have been considered ‘at risk’ for autism (he is an only child, so we would certainly have been watching the development of a second child, had we had one, closely). Charlie always liked attention from people and being around people. He did show a clear preference for looking at toys (blocks, puzzles, shape toys) in primary colors. Looking back, Charlie played with these in what (as we realize now) were almost exclusively repetitive ways, stacking or lining things up. He favored children’s TV shows like Teletubbies which had bright colors, minimal language and lots of music, and simple sets (versus the ‘visual clutter’ of a show like Sesame Street)—-though Charlie was quite fond of several of the Teletubbies segments that feature real children playing, tap-dancing, running on the beach, and so forth.

There have been quite a few studies in the past couple of years offering new findings about how to detect autism in younger and younger children. I usually find myself nodding as I read these studies, memories of a much younger Charlie flashing through my mind. Indeed, in light of these studies, it seems likely to me that Charlie could have been diagnosed at six months old with autism. He was diagnosed in 1999 just as he was turning two and to this day benefited greatly from all the early intervention he received. 

But you know, I could carry him then. (I did quite a bit; Charlie was a late walker.) It was no big deal that Charlie watched kid TV shows, listened to Barney and Disney songs, played with colored beads and blocks and shapes. 

Charlie still does many of the things he did when he was so little. He is significantly bigger (understatement) and has quite a few other interests, like riding his bike in New Jersey and New York and Charlie Parker and jazz. His challenges and needs are now much, much more obvious, and, while he’s been learning to manage his behavior storms much better (usually by asking to go on a long bike ride with my husband Jim), he still have tough times and it’s a lot harder now that Charlie is adult-size and, too, nearing adulthood.

Charlie’s going to need a job, sooner than soon, and something meaningful to do for the rest of his life. Like most people, Charlie will be an adult for far far longer than he was a child.

So perhaps we could start to focus a lot more (a lot lot more) on life for autistic children after detection, diagnosis, and early intervention—–on adulthood? 

On the full spectrum of the life of an autistic person?

Photo by foot slogger.


April L.
April L8 years ago

@Carol W...

In the UK, check out Sue Hyland. I don't believe she accepts insurance.She does have a wonderfully informative website which you can find here...

Carol W.
Carol Walters8 years ago

Carole B.: I am sad to hear that the UK doesn't have many services in this area as my daughter is soon to marry a young man from Wales. Her oldest son, 10 has autism and is doing very well here in the states with all the different types of therapy available here. His autism became evident after he had been given 6 immunizations at once at a local health clinic. The pediatrician that saw him after that incident told us to never go there again as this child had been overdosed with the vaccines. Now, my grandson has spectrum disorder. He is still very, very smart but exhibits all the behaviors of an autistic child. After hearing your description of the services available there, now I worry that he will go backwards with all that he has learned. This child could totally focus on a 2 hour Disney movie when he was but 4 months old. At 2 years, he was beating video games that my then 19 year old son couldn't beat. He showed such great signs of smarts at times, it was awesome, very remarkable. Then as I said, the vaccines took all that away. He is still smart and just isn't the child he was before all this happened. Mercury is still poison regardless of the concentration. Mercury is credited with having done this to my grandson. Surely there are other preservatives that can be used that don't cause all this damage to our children.
Big pharmaceutical companies will never admit that these things are poisonous to our children or anyone else as it would ruin their greedy businesses.

Harley F.
Harley F8 years ago

Sorry, but vaccines aren't exactly over-rated. Sure, companies get production wrong all the time, which is why vaccines should be tested thoroughly before being shipped, but there are some diseases that have been virtually eliminated thanks to vaccinations. Smallpox is a good example of this.

April L.
April L8 years ago

Did you know...

"...Scientists discovered SV40 in the Salk polio vaccine in 1960. By then as many as 30 million Americans had been given injections of the SV40-tainted polio vaccine, which was first licensed in 1955."

SV40 is a monkey virus which causes tumors and cancer in animals and people.

"...According to one memo, SV40 was found in three of 15 lots of the oral vaccine seven months after the federal directive was issued in March 1961. Lederle released the contaminated vaccine to the public anyway, the memo shows."

I have researched this using many different sources, but the quotes above are taken from this article...

Did you know...

Baxter Pharmaceuticals sent a shipment of H1N1 vaccines, in Feb. 2009, to Austria which were contaminated with live H5N1 virus (bird flu)?

Artticle here...

This is part of what I'm talking about when I stated you need to do your research on the history of vaccines. This is only a start.

Vaccines are overrated, under tested and trash our bodies. The fact that you don't get a vaccine doesn't mean you're going to catch a disease.

Take your time and do your research with regard to vaccines. You don't have to adhere to anyone's schedule but your own, and don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise.

April L.
April L8 years ago

A thread on autism is started in many different ways, but it always ends up going in the same direction...vaccines. What people don't seem to understand, is that it doesn't really matter if vaccines cause what Kristina Chew calls "autism". What matters is that vaccines are not safe at all. They DO cause neurological damage. They DO cause auto-immune diseases. They DO kill people.

The masses have been brainwashed by the establishment. If you have a child, then stop, right now. Just stop. Take a minute and realize that it is YOUR choice to vaccinate them or not to. It's not the governments choice and not your child's doctor's, but yours. Ask questions. Do your research on what they are injecting into your babies. IT'S YOUR DUTY TO YOUR CHILDREN TO KNOW WHAT'S IN THEIR VACCINES. Your doctor says it's safe? Really? This reminds me of what my mother used to tell me when I was a child..."If your frieds jumped off of a bridge, would you do it too?" Your doctor says it's safe, but did your doctor invent the vaccine? Did they do the testing on it? Of course not. Your doctor tells your it's safe because someone told THEM it was safe. Big Pharma told them it was safe. Take responsibility. Find out what's in the vaccines and find out the history of the vaccine itself. Who invented it? When? Who manufactured it? What have been the adverse reactions to it? Don't you want to know these things BEFORE YOU INJECT something into your child? Once you inject it, it could be too late.

jane richmond
jane richmond8 years ago

1 in 110 up from 1 in 600. What are we doing to our children to cause such a massive increase in the rise of Autism. Awareness is great but where is the research?


I still have my doubts about some of the tests! Many children display these 'symptoms' who turn out to be totally and utterly normal when they get older. I have read reports by doctors who have worked with autism for many years and they think that there is strong possibility that what is considered to be autism in children is not autism at all. So many signs of autism, such as in this article... lining things up obsessively and repetitive actions and seeming to be more focssed on toys than on the care-giver is sometimes the fact that the child is intelligent and focusing on some toy, say, a car, because they are a mechanic in the making! There are so many vairiables. Some of you mums who have autistic children, who are TRULY autistic probably knew there was a problem early in the piece, but I am sure there are many mums with children that are being diagnosed with autism who are possibly totally normal because they are being observed too early and not enough allowance has been made for children to be their own person and have differing personalities. Some perfectly normal children are introverted , but they make some of the best authors, for instance, bacause of their perosonality. There is a trend these days to make every child a perfect clone, instead of allowing people to be different and have their own unique offering to the world.... I only say this, as there obvious cases of autism, but children are sometimes being falsely diagnosed, because they are tested too early.

Alexandra R.
Alexandra Rodda8 years ago

Autism is another way to be.

Sandy B.
Sandy B.8 years ago

I have a 2.5 year old son whom I've recently suspect that might have autism. I just called his family physician today to talk about what I've observed so far and the reason why I might need to talk to someone that can detect it for sure. I don't rust his physician's diagnosis. Does anyone know who I need to take my son to and where do I start. I live in Toronto Canada. Any ideas of where I even search on Web in terms of help and the medical professions who are trained to diagnose autism? Help please!!!!!! Thanks

KaL N.
KaL Ninesevensix8 years ago

@Carole Brown - I'm 42 too & haven't had a 'real' job in 10 years.
I only found out I have ASD recently through reading the forums at & being slapped in the face with recognition of my own experiences.
I always thought I was 'mad at the world' because clearly the world is messed up & the solutions seem so blindingly obvious,
'neurotypical' people may think that too but it doesn't stop them functioning on a day to day level.
I've been taking Lexapro - for a couple of months now & although I don't feel any different my friends have noticed a marked change in my interactions with them.
I first heard about it here - & although not all of what they were saying applies I thought it might be worth a shot given my life was falling apart [again] & I still didn't know why.
Of course knowing why you don't interact with some people properly is helpful but it doesn't enable you to do it any better as that's not the nature of ASD, but it is at least good to know 'why' & to be able to direct the people who care about you to read/view the same things so maybe they get a better handle on it & can cut you a bit more slack.