A new study is now out (published in Nature) that shows a baby’s gaze—when and how long a baby looks at your eyes—may prove to be an early indicator of autism. Researchers found that children who were found to have autism at age 3 looked less at people’s eyes when they were babies than children who did not develop autism.
As described in this NY Times blog, the study found that babies who later developed autism began spending less time looking at people’s eyes between 2 and 6 months old, and paid less attention to eyes as they grew older.
If this proves to be the case, then it could be the earliest behavioral sign to date of developing autism, and treatment could potentially begin much earlier on. But researchers are quick to warn that specific technology would be needed to properly track eye movement in babies – and don’t want to create unnecessary concern, noting that if a child isn’t looking them in the eye all the time, it’s not an issue – children look all over the place.
As we all know, early intervention can make a world of difference in the treatment of autism, so this could prove to be a really important finding, helping to bring intervention in as early as possible.
Lynsey, Community Manager