Stanford Researchers pave the way for Early Autism Diagnosis

Autism in their child can devastate any parent. The situation becomes more heart-breaking, when parents receive the autistic confirmation too late (is normally diagnosed when the child gets to a speaking and learning age); with parents only wishing that may the diagnosis was made years earlier.

But a recent observation by Stanford researchers, published online Friday in the journal Biological Psychiatry, has ushered in a ray of hope -- An observation, which has the potential to diagnose autism, even in a 2-year-old and younger. A timely diagnosis might help doctors timely determine what kind of treatment the individual will be getting.

A team of Stanford researchers have found that the brains of autistic children have a distinctive topography (ridges and depressions). This important fact is captured by the researchers using new imaging techniques. The researchers’ hope that this will someday help in creating a template for the autistic brain that could be used to diagnose kids at a very early age.

What the researchers found unique in the brain of a child with Autism:

Detailed, computerized analyses of MRI scans showed a pattern of organization, especially in regions of the brain dedicated to communication and self-awareness that were unique to children with autism.

Why the above observation is treated as a breakthrough:

For one simple reason: The current diagnosis of Autism is not Easy. Plus, the with the current diagnosis tools, the diagnosis is uncertain.

In developed countries like US, children with autism are normally diagnosed at three. But the diagnosis procedure, which has improved significantly over the years, is quite lengthy (can stretch a full day of interviews and exams with children and their families) and many a times inaccurate, as the diagnostic process is difficult and dependent on the skill of the doctor or therapist doing the diagnosis.

In addition, the age of autism diagnosis in a child is directly proportional to the level of affluence of his/her family. In US, many children, especially from minority or low-income families, aren't diagnosed until school-age. Thus if one applies the same relation to countires, then one can say that -- Poorer or less developed a country, later will be the Autism diagnosis.

By what age Autism in a child should be diagnosed:

Autism experts prefer autism diagnosis in a child be made well before age 3, when the disorder has already started to affect their verbal and social skills. The experts say that, if doctors can start treating autism before brain damage has occurred, they may be able to avoid some of the worst effects and improve the long-term outlook for children.

Autism affects roughly one percent of children in the United States, and rates have increased significantly in the past 20 years.

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