Skip navigation

Calls to Action

How Young Is Too Young To Diagnose Autism?

The Wall Street Journal article June 5th, 2005, “How Young Is Too Young To Diagnose Autism”.
April 23, 2007

The Wall Street Journal published an article June 5th, 2005 entitled “How Young Is Too Young To Diagnose Autism” (by Suein Hwang). The newspaper profiled a 13-month old who suddenly lost her ability to speak and then retreated into her own world. Hailey Lyle was diagnosed with autism at 15-months-old.

The article takes a look at some of the efforts taking place – many involving NAAR researchers – to identify and evaluate young children who

may be on the autism spectrum. While it used to be rare to see even a toddler undergoing an evaluation for autism, centers around the United States, Canada and other countries are now seeing children under two years old every month, even every week.

Early diagnosis and intervention are critical. That's why NAAR and the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) have launched the first collaborative effort of the High Risk Baby Sibling Autism Research Project. It is a multi-site effort currently involving investigators at 25 sites. Studies show that families with one autistic child have a roughly five to10 percent chance of a second child being diagnosed with autism, a rate of recurrence about 50 times higher than the general population."

About the Project
The High Risk Baby Siblings Autism Research Projectis a multi-site project designed to identify behavioral and biological markers for autism and eventually enable clinicians to make a more definitive diagnosis earlier than ever before. In addition, the project also focuses on determining and developing specialized behavioral interventions specifically designed for infants and very young children. The genesis of this partnership originated with pilot studies funded by NAAR over the past several years that focused on a population at high-risk for developing autism: the infant siblings of children with autism.

The High Risk Baby Siblings Autism Research Projecthas the potential to enable clinicians to diagnose autism even earlier, which will further improve the prognosis for children and their families affected by autism. Providing a definitive, biological diagnosis will also make it easier for more parents to seek early intervention and may also provide important clues to autism's etiology.

To date, NAAR has committed $700,000 to the collaboration, one of NAAR's largest awards to a single project.

The High Risk Baby Sibling Autism Research Project currently includes the following investigators:

Dr. Helen Tager Flusberg – Boston University (Boston, MA)
Dr. Alice Carter – University of Massachusetts at Boston (Boston, MA)
Dr. Rebecca Landa – Kennedy Krieger Institute (Baltimore, MD)
Dr. Margaret Bauman – Harvard University (Boston, MA)
Dr. Wendy Stone – Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)
Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum – McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario)
Dr. Susan Bryson – IWK Health Centre (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Dr. Ami Klin – Yale Child Study Center (New Haven, CT)
Dr. Geraldine Dawson – University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
Dr. Deborah Fein – University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
Dr. Jana Iverson – University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)
Dr. Marian Sigman – University of California at Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
Dr. Sally Rogers & Dr. Sally Ozonoff – MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis.
Dr. Cathy Lord – University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
Dr. Daniel Messinger – University of Miami (Miami, FL)
Dr. John N. Constantino, Washington University (St. Louis, MO)

A selection of autism centers that will evaluate children under 18-months old:

Albert Einstein College of Medicine's Children Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center, Bronx, N.Y.

Kennedy Krieger Institute's Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Baltimore, Md.

University of Washington Autism Center, Seattle, Wash.

Yale Child Study Center, New Haven, Conn.

Click Here to view the complete Wall Street Journal article