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Autism: What’s in a name?

Failure to respond to name by age 12 months was a marker for autism in at-risk children.

Studies of early home videos of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have shown decreased “response-to-name” behavior during infancy. To examine the accuracy of this behavior as a marker for autism, researchers compared infants who had older siblings with ASD (at-risk group) and infants who did not have siblings with ASD (controls) and then followed the children prospectively for 2 years.

Responses to a standardized test of response to name (turning and making eye contact) were examined in at-risk infants and control infants at age 6 months and age 12 months. At age 24 months, 46 at-risk infants and 25 control infants with data from the 12-month assessment were evaluated for ASD and other developmental delays.

At 6 months, differences between groups were not significant, but, at 12 months, more control infants than at-risk infants responded to their names after fewer calls. Failure to respond to name at 12 months had a sensitivity of 50% and a specificity of 89% for identifying a child with ASD and a sensitivity of 39% and a specificity of 94% for identifying a child with any developmental delay, including ASD. Results of other analyses suggested that response-to-name behavior is a stronger measure of social interaction than of receptive language.

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This study presents an interesting assessment of a simple screening test for children aged …

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