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People With Autism Have Unique Look, Study Finds

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In much the same way that many with Down syndrome exhibit hallmark facial characteristics, a new study suggests that those with autism also share unique features.

After comparing 3-D images of 64 boys with autism and 41 typically developing kids ages 8 to 12, researchers at the University of Missouri identified a distinct pattern of facial features shared only by those with the developmental disability.

Specifically, the study found that boys with autism had a broader upper face with wider eyes; a shorter middle section, including the cheeks and nose; and a broader mouth and philtrum, the cleft between the nose and upper lip.

Using images of each child’s head, the researchers also pinpointed traits unique to kids with autism who shared certain challenges such as behavior problems.

While the characteristics are subtle, the findings reported this month in the journal Molecular Autism, could help researchers gain a better understanding of autism, those behind the study say.

“If we can identify when these facial changes occur, we could pinpoint when autism may begin to develop in a child,” said Kristina Aldridge, an assistant professor of anatomy at the University of Missouri who led the study. “Knowing that point in time could lead us to identify a genetic cause, a window of time when the embryo may be susceptible to an environmental factor, or both.”

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Comments (7 Responses)

  1. AKAspie says:

    Why were only boys with Autism studied? Are girls with Autism Spectrum Disorders less of a priority to researchers in their subject recruitment? It certainly seems that way at times. Also, was this a double-blind study, or were the researchers specifically looking for similarities amongst the autistic subjects alone, because the article, as I read it, implies that none of the normally developing 8-12 year-old children– (which brings up another question: was this group gender-mixed?)– possessed these features, which I find hard to believe. More details about the methodology and related data would be greatly appreciated. My apologies if this post comes across aggressive or demanding, please interpret my tone instead as ‘strongly curious’. :)

  2. msamericanpatriot says:

    AKAspie I agree with you. I am a female on the Spectrum and wonder the same thing too.

  3. fairlady68 says:

    Here I am, another female on the spectrum. The only reason I could think of for limiting it to boys was to keep as many study parameters as possible stable. They should do a similar study just involving girls. Probably not a good idea to mix the genders in this particular case. However, I do agree that more effort and attention needs to be directed not only to girls with ASD but also WOMEN on the spectrum.

  4. Marc says:

    “. . .shared only by those with the developmental disability.”

    My autistic son looks just like me (his dad) and his older brother and his paternal grandfather. Everybody has commented on the strong family resemblance. He does look a little spacey sometimes but that is because of his Epilepsy meds.

    Other than my younger son none of us are on the spectrum or have any ASD tendencies, other than me. When I was five years old I had an aversion to stepping of sidewalk cracks since I thought I would break my mother’s back. I outgrew it by the time I was six but I guess that still makes me suspect.

    Have a great weekend everybody and take your kids trick or treating!

  5. kbeni41 says:

    This SCARES me, it is definately Not People First and is a study to stigmatize and physically identify a group of people by physical traits, this is frighteningly similar to the “studies” used to identify Jewish people in the Pre-Nazi Germany era., also rings familiar with the “identification” of people with disabilities during that time to round them up, experiment in unfathomably horrible ways, and include them in a “final solution”.
    Has this NOT occured to anyone?

  6. gerret says:

    “kbeni41 says:
    November 9, 2011 at 9:19 am

    This SCARES me, it is definately Not People First and is a study to stigmatize and physically identify a group of people by physical traits, this is frighteningly similar to the “studies” used to identify Jewish people in the Pre-Nazi Germany era., also rings familiar with the “identification” of people with disabilities during that time to round them up, experiment in unfathomably horrible ways, and include them in a “final solution”.
    Has this NOT occured to anyone?”

    Yes “kbeni41” this has occurred after researching this article it is nonsense… I have Asperger’s Syndrome and I asked my Doctor, and Psychiatrist about this, I sent them the link and they both laughed and said that this publication is not credible as evidenced by the articles such as this one.

    There are also publications that claim that there are studies that have proven that Homosexual (Gay) people have a certain length to their fingers, I believe it is the middle fingers.

    There are so many studies like this and the people who choose to publish them in their blogs or websites are simply not thinking critically.

    Posting this sort of nonsense only serves to undermine the credibility of the publication, website, editor, and anyone associated with the publication digital or otherwise.

    As usual it comes down to “Buyer Beware”.

  7. gerret says:

    To the Women on this site… I believe this is nonsense and be careful what you wish for and be grateful that there are no similar nonsense studies done of Females.

    Next “Faux Scientists” will be counting the bumps on your heads to determine whether you are good genetic material.

    When you hear the word “Study” or phrases like “Study Finds” or “Researchers at So and So University have found”… dismiss it outright.

    The scientific process is as follows:
    > Identify a problem
    > State it in a sentence
    > This then becomes the Hypothesis
    > Develop experiments to generate Data
    > Analyze Data
    > Was a conclusion drawn from the Data, if not either examine the Hypothesis or create new experiments or investigate the discipline of the entire process.
    > Upon proving or disproving the hypothesis publish the findings for Peer Review.
    > Upon successful Peer Review, conclusion is considered for more Research and Development.

    None of this is evident in the rather ambiguous article above.

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