Joanne E. Flanagan, Rebecca Landa, Anjana Bhat, Margaret Bauman; Head Lag in Infants at Risk for Autism: A Preliminary Study. Am J Occup Ther 2012;66(5):577-585. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2012.004192.
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OBJECTIVE.Poor postural control during pull-to-sit is a predictor of developmental disruption in cerebral palsy and preterm populations but has not been examined in infants at risk for autism. We examined the association between head lag during pull-to-sit at age 6 mo and autism risk status.
METHOD.High-risk participants were siblings of children with autism. We studied one sample of 40 high-risk infants prospectively from 6–36 mo and obtained diagnostic classifications of autism or no autism. We conducted a subsequent between-group comparison with a new sample of 20 high-risk and 21 low-risk infants.
RESULTS.Head lag was significantly associated with autism spectrum disorder at 36 mo (p = .020) and was more frequently observed in high-risk than in low-risk infants (p = .018).
CONCLUSION.Head lag with other alterations in early development may be associated with autism risk and may serve as an early indicator of neurodevelopmental disruption. Results have clinical implications for occupational therapists in early intervention practice.
Is postural control in midinfancy, as indicated by the presence of head lag in a pull-to-sit task, associated with diagnostic outcome classification in infants at high risk for ASD?
Do infants at high risk for ASD exhibit poor postural control more often than infants at low risk for ASD?
Occupational therapists, in conjunction with speech–language therapists, physical therapists, and other professionals, play an important role in early identification and intervention to address sensorimotor and social skills to improve participation in infants showing such red flags.
Occupational therapists also may play an important role in research on early detection to identify infants exhibiting subtle early sensorimotor deficits that may affect subsequent development of play and social occupations.
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