A new study has identified a simple test which could help parents and health care providers identify children at risk for autism.

Researchers conducted a study of six-month-old infants at a high genetic risk for autism and found that weak head and neck control could be a red flag for autism (ASD) and language and/or social development. They found that a simple “pull-to-sit” exercise could be added to existing screening protocols at baby well visits to improve early detection and intervention.

“Research aimed at improving early detection of autism has largely focused on measurement of social and communication development,” explained Dr. Rebecca Landa, study author and director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute. “However, disruption in early motor development may also provide important clues about developmental disorders such as autism.”

The head lag phenomenon is not new to doctors. Previous studies have shown that the delay indicates developmental delays in children with cerebral palsy and preterm infants.

The idea that postural control in infants could indicate risk for ASD had not been considered. A baby on a typical developmental pattern achieves the head and neck control at four months.

“While more research is needed to examine why not all children with ASD experience motor delay, the results of our studies examining motor development add to the body of research demonstrating that early detection and intervention for infants later diagnosed with autism is possible and remains crucial to minimize delays and improve outcomes,” Dr. Landa concluded.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, International Meeting for Autism Research