News ID: 192040
Published: 0214 GMT May 03, 2017

UW Autism Center opens clinic for babies

UW Autism Center opens clinic for babies

The University of Washington (UW) Autism Center has established an infant clinic to evaluate infants and toddlers up to 24 months of age, so as to make early intervention possible.

Quoting Annette Estes, who directs the UW Autism Center, as part of the UW Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, reported, “With only a few infant autism clinics scattered around the US, families have brought their infants to the UW Autism Center from elsewhere in the country, and in a few cases, the world.”

While autism diagnoses have increased over the years, and an estimated one in 68 people has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), parents have looked for signs earlier in their children's lives.

A growing body of research and practice suggested accurate assessment of children as young as 12 months old, though rare, is not only possible, but also useful.

The average age for autism diagnosis in the US is around four years old.

A little over three years ago, the Autism Center accurately diagnosed its youngest client: A 10-month-old boy.

Thanks to subsequent intervention activities, Estes has developed communication skills, engages socially and is thriving in preschool.

Estes, a research affiliate at the Center on Human Development and Disability, added, "Many people have an unfounded belief that you have to wait until 36 months of age to diagnose autism. That is not the case.

"There is a great deal of value in diagnosing as soon as symptoms emerge — it gives parents a great deal of relief and allows appropriate intervention to begin."

Earlier this year, journal Nature published findings from the UW Autism Center's involvement in a North American effort that examined brain biomarkers in infants, including those with at least one autistic sibling.

The study showed that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) helped correctly identify 80 percent of babies who would go on to be diagnosed with autism at two years of age.

Spotting the signs of autism early is critical, Estes was quoted as saying in a news release from UW, so that a family can connect with the right services, whether in the clinic or out in the community.

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