Study Suggests Signs of Autism

A study conducted in San Diego suggests the time spent by a toddler staring at a computer screen saver versus the time spent playing a game of peek-a-boo could be an early sign of autism.

Researchers with the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine tested 110 toddlers between the ages of 14 and 42 months. The team showed the children geometric patterns.

According to the study results, those children who spent more than 69 percent of their time fixing their gaze on geometric images could be classified as having an autism spectrum disorder or ASD.

“What an infant prefers to look at when given a choice between two images may turn out to be a more clearly observable indicator of autism risk than how he or she looks at a single image,” said Karen Pierce, PhD, an assistant professor in the UCSD Department of Neurosciences and assistant director of the UCSD Autism Center of Excellence.

“Among toddlers who strongly prefer geometric patterns, we found that – almost 100 percent of the time – those children developed an autism spectrum disorder,” she said.

If a baby likes to watch a computer screen saver, parents shouldn’t be alarmed but if moving geometric patterns are more interesting than say, interactive games like peek-a-boo, doesn’t point or bring objects to show and fails to respond when his/her name is called, parents should speak to their pediatrician, according to Pierce.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health. The study was published in the September 6 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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