Research Article  |   June 2015
Assessment of Autism Symptoms During the Neonatal Period: Is There Early Evidence of Autism Risk?
Author Affiliations
  • Roberta Pineda, PhD, OTR/L, is Assistant Professor, Program in Occupational Therapy, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Washington University, St. Louis, MO; pineda_r@kids.wustl.edu
  • Kelsey Melchior, MSOT, is Occupational Therapy Student, Program in Occupational Therapy, School of Medicine, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
  • Sarah Oberle, OTD, OTR/L, is Occupational Therapist, Program in Occupational Therapy, School of Medicine, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
  • Terrie Inder, MD, is Mary Ellen Avery Professor in Pediatrics in the Field of Newborn Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, and Professor in Pediatrics, Department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA
  • Cynthia Rogers, MD, is Assistant Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
Article Information
Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder / Neurologic Conditions / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Vision / Children and Youth
Research Article   |   June 2015
Assessment of Autism Symptoms During the Neonatal Period: Is There Early Evidence of Autism Risk?
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, June 2015, Vol. 69, 6904220010p1-6904220010p11. doi:10.5014/ajot.2015.015925
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, June 2015, Vol. 69, 6904220010p1-6904220010p11. doi:10.5014/ajot.2015.015925
Abstract

OBJECTIVE. To define neonatal social characteristics related to autism risk.

METHOD. Sixty-two preterm infants underwent neonatal neurobehavioral testing. At age 2 yr, participants were assessed with the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers and Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd edition.

RESULTS. Positive autism screening was associated with absence of gaze aversion, χ = 5.90, p =.01, odds ratio = 5.05, and absence of endpoint nystagmus, χ = 4.78, p = .02, odds ratio = 8.47. Demonstrating gaze aversion was related to better language outcomes, t(55) = −3.07, p ≤ .003. Displaying endpoint nystagmus was related to better language outcomes, t(61) = −3.06, p = .003, cognitive outcomes, t(63) = −5.04, p < .001, and motor outcomes, t(62) = −2.82, p = .006.

CONCLUSION. Atypical social interactions were not observed among infants who later screened positive for autism. Instead, the presence of gaze aversion and endpoint nystagmus was related to better developmental outcomes. Understanding early behaviors associated with autism may enable early identification and lead to timely therapy activation to improve function.