Right now, most children can't receive a reliable diagnosis until they are at least 1 year old.
Chase Minicucci and his mother, Hillary Steele Minicucci, regularly go to Boston Children’s to track his development. Chase seems to be a typically developing toddler, and he’s learning to point and use words to express his needs.
Infants as young as 3 months old and toddlers up to 36 months old spend only a few minutes wearing a cap with more than 100 sensors. While wearing it, they watch a T.V. showing cartoons, which is also an eye tracker.
One of the big unknowns is when does autism develop, and Nelson said the study is shining light on whether it happens before or after birth.
“It's very unlikely that brain development was perfectly normal until birth and then something happened. The fact that we see it so early, just at 3 months, makes me think that it started before birth. But what derailed brain development, we don't know,” he said.
A fascinating story: researchers @BostonChildrens are potentially predicting whether infants as young as 3 months old will develop Autism. How it works, & how they’re hoping it will someday lead to preventing Autism, on @boston25 at 6. pic.twitter.com/nHpglclUvV
Dr. Nelson stressed the medical community is not at the point yet where a 3-month-old could receive a diagnosis, but the child could be flagged. The next step is developing early intervention strategies for that age group.
As for Chase, his mother said that right now, he doesn't seem to be exhibiting some of the warning signs, which has given her some much-needed reassurance.