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Toddlers with Autism Drawn to Synchronized Movements

March 29, 2009

In its March 29 issue, Nature reports on an NIH-funded study out of the Yale Child Study Center that focuses on toddler response to biological motion. Dr. Ami Klin, lead investigator for the study, and his colleagues found that young toddlers with autism are not sensitive to biological motion, or all movements made by people including facial expressions, speech and gestures. The study, funded in part by Autism Speaks, helps explain why young toddlers with autism often do not make eye contact or pay attention to what others are doing. Instead, toddlers with autism are drawn to movements that are highly synchronized, which is not characteristic of most human movements.

“Since infants as young as two days old are sensitive and pay attention to biological motion,” said Dr. Geri Dawson, chief science officer for Autism Speaks, “these findings could potentially be useful in detecting infants at risk for autism very early in life. It is important to use therapeutic strategies for children with autism that help draw their attention to people, including their facial expressions, and gestures.”

By providing very early intervention, doctors and therapists may be able to influence the trajectory of brain and behavioral development in children with autism so that a more typical development occurs and symptoms of autism are reduced.

Read the full study here.

Read an NIH press release on the study here.