Doctors can’t formally diagnose autism in children younger than age 2, but that’s not stopping researchers who are working to identify infants who are at risk and begin therapy.

The idea is to take early intervention and apply it at ever-younger ages. Researchers at the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis are enrolling children as young as 6 months who are exhibiting signs of autism — such as lack of eye contact or failing to smile or babble — in a pilot project called Infant Start.

Participating parents learn to help their babies develop critical skills. For example, parents might be taught to engage their children in such a way that the babies gaze at mom or dad rather than a toy or the ceiling.

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Infant Start is a modified version of the Early Start Denver Model, a daily therapy program that has shown promise with older kids on the autism spectrum. If the pilot project is successful, researchers may conduct a clinical trial to test the therapy.

However, measuring progress with young babies will undoubtedly be difficult, autism experts say. That’s because researchers will have a hard time knowing whether success is the result of the treatment or a child simply outgrowing symptoms, reports The New York Times. To read more click here.

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