Researchers have found that infant siblings of children with autism can show symptoms of ASD before their first birthday. Senior Program Director Dr. Rebecca MacDonald is replicating a remarkable study by Graupner and Sallows (2017) of the Wisconsin Early Autism Project on early identification of autism. Recent data from the study suggests that symptoms — such as fleeting attention and lack of smiling, reciprocal cooing and babbling — can emerge as early as the first two months of life. In the Wisconsin Study, 14 babies were identified as symptomatic prior to the age of 6 months and received 15 to 40 hours of 1:1 early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) from a therapist. EIBI includes, but is not limited to, ongoing cooing, eye contact, and extended playing with a trained therapist. Of the 14 who showed symptoms, 13 showed no symptoms by 24 months after their treatment.
The goal of early identification of autism and early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) is to prevent the full onset of ASD as a toddler develops. Dr. MacDonald’s research is funded by grants and the NECC Annual Fund.