Temperament gives ‘red flags’ for autism

From ABC Science Online, News in Science, 10 September 2012:
Lack of cuddliness and a fixation with textures, sounds and smells in children under two years of age could be signs of autism, say researchers.

They say such patterns in temperament could be used to help detect the disorder earlier and tailor treatment, giving behavioural interventions a better chance of success.

Psychologist Dr Sally Clifford of Charles Sturt University and colleagues, report their findings in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

“We’re hoping that by studying temperament, you can come up with some ways of individualising an intervention based on temperament,” says Clifford.

While symptoms of autism emerge during infancy, diagnosis is not usually made until a child is aged three or four and researchers are keen to detect the condition and intervene earlier.

“The earlier you intervene, the better the outcome so there’s a window of opportunity that’s going to get you the best prognosis,” says Clifford.

Some researchers have proposed that temperament can affect the expression of autism symptoms so Clifford and colleagues explored this in children who were at high risk of autism – by virtue of having an older sibling with the condition. Read more here.

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