New child Screening Might Include Autism Clues

A simple routine test could detect autism in newborns, according to researchers.

According to a new study, newborns who are regularly screened for hearing loss could also provide clues as to whether they are on the spectrum.

The tests measure a child’s auditory brainstem response (ABR) to see how the inner ear and brain respond to sound.

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For the study, researchers looked at nearly 140,000 audio recordings made by Florida-born children and compared them to the state’s educational records. They found that children who were later diagnosed with autism had slower brain responses during infant hearing tests.

“We’re not at the point where we tell doctors to use ABR testing as a determinant of autism in babies,” said Elizabeth Simpson, an associate professor at the University of Miami who recently attended the Study published study has worked journal Autism Research. “We say, however, that this study represents a promising direction in how ABR testing can be used as a method for accurately detecting autism at birth.”

Simpson noted that children with autism can process sounds normally even when their hearing is normal. Therefore, researchers are considering how adding more layers to hearing screening could better capture a child’s risk for autism and other developmental problems.

“The importance of diagnosing autism early during infant and child development, when interventions can have the greatest impact, cannot be emphasized enough,” said Oren Miron, a research fellow at Harvard Medical School who led the study. “Any additional tool that could clarify diagnostic clues would be invaluable in this regard.”

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