New study suggests link between eye contact in infants and autis - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

New study suggests link between eye contact in infants and autism

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HARRISBURG, NC (WBTV) -

A new study out of Atlanta suggests the initial signs of autism may show up in the first few months of a child's life.

Autism experts in Charlotte say this could lead to earlier detection and better treatment of the disability that affects one in 88 children.

"Words can't even describe that call," said parent Todd Ostrander.

Todd and Amber Ostrander couldn't believe the news, the day their five year old daughter, Lacie, was diagnosed with Autism.

"Your stomach sinks so low inside of you when you get that diagnosis because you don't want to admit there's anything wrong with your little girl," said Ostrander.

Lacie was diagnosed with the disease at the age of three, but a study by the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta suggests the signs of autism could have been there as early as two months.

Researchers used eye tracking technology to study babies at high risk for autism from birth to three years.

They found that all the babies tracked their mother's eye movement, but babies later diagnosed with autism followed their mom's eyes less, were as early as one month old.

Officials at Autism Speaks in Charlotte say early detection and early intervention are key for children with Autism to do better in life.

"We can't pick up autism reliably until a kid is two to three years old. If we were able to do that in the first six months of life that would be much better because we could start treatment, intervention and behavioral therapy started that much earlier," said Autism Speaks Senior VP Medical Researcher Dr. Paul Wang.

Dr. Wang says this is only one study and more research needs to be done to validate its findings.

"We really need this to be replicated by other groups and researchers to make sure this is real," he continued.

"If we could have actually started this three years ago, there would have been incredible improvements," said Ostrander.

But for parents like the Ostranders, they say the study is a step in the right direction to better help children such as Lacie have somewhat of a normal life.

To read the full study, click here.

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