Infant fixing gaze could be early signal of autism

London: Infants fixing their gaze on a particular object for a long time could be an early indication of developing autism, say researchers.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability and part of a spectrum disorder. The main symptoms are difficulties with social interaction, impaired communication skills and unusual thought and behaviour patterns.

During the study, researchers from Kennedy Krieger Institute and University of Delaware examined 25 six-month-old infants in the "high-risk" group along with 25 of their peers.

The youngsters were placed in a chair with a simple joystick. When they moved it the musical toy was activated and they were given more attention by their caregiver. When actively engaged the children in both groups spent a similar amount of time looking at the person as they did at the toy.

However, the team found that when the babies were not being engaged, those in the high risk group spent far more time gazing at the toy than the caregiver. According to study author Dr Rebecca Landa, the study showed a subtle early marker for autism.

"This study shows that there is a particular vulnerability in high-risk siblings at six months of age," quoted her as saying.

"They are not as socially interactive and engaged on their own as their peers, but still respond typically when engaged by their caregivers, making for a subtle difference that could be easily overlooked by both parents and some professionals."


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