A groundbreaking study could determine if a baby as young as 3 months old is at risk for developing autism.
Currently, most children can't receive a reliable diagnosis until they are at least a year old.
Channel 9 anchor Erica Bryant learned an early detection could also lead to autism prevention.
Chase Minicucci is a toddler who seems to be developing normally, but Chase’s mother is taking precautions because he's been identified as at risk because his 7-year-old brother has autism.
“Did the testing, and one day after his fourth birthday, and the doctor said, ‘So, your son has autism,’” mother Hillary Steele Minicucci said.
Minicucci also has a daughter who does not have autism, but autism is more prevalent in boys.
Research shows 1 in 5 children whose siblings have autism will develop it, too. Chase’s parents spent the first year of his life worrying.
“I was literally making myself crazy over it,” Minicucci said.
Minicucci got Chase into a study at Boston Children's Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience.
Babies 3 months old to 36 months old wear a cap with more than 100 sensors.
A TV showing cartoons is also an *eye tracker." By studying EEG signals or electrical activity in a baby's brains, doctors can predict who is likely to develop autism.
“The overall finding is they (do) not to look at faces as much as children who have no risk factors,” said Dr. Charles Nelson, with Boston Children's Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience.
Researchers see some changes in brain patterns as early as three months old, suggesting autism may have started before birth.
Chase doesn’t display the warning signs, giving his mother reassurance.
The EEG caps are relatively inexpensive.
Researchers hope someday soon every pediatrician's office will have one, and all infants can be tested within a critical window of time.
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