The diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is based on behavioral observations. It is hard to make such a diagnosis for sure before the age of 3.
However, the first years of life are a period marked by a great cerebral plasticity, during which therapeutic interventions are likely to yield major positive changes. The lack of social orientation (for example a reduction of interest towards eye movements) can be observed quite early in the development of infants with ASD.
Several studies have shown a link between a lack in social orientation and the development of joint attention (i.e. the common interest of several people for the same object). Moreover, deficits in social orientation and in joint attention have consequences on the social and cognitive development of infants and toddlers.
These results are discussed in a neurocognitive perspective, with implications for early diagnosis and early therapeutic interventions adapted to young children with ASD.
Article by Martina Franchini, Edouard Gentaz and Marie Schaer.