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New study links baby's gaze and autism

New research may help detect autism at a glance.

Lack of eye contact is just one sign to look out for; it isn't a diagnosis.
Credit: Colourbox

Nature, the International Weekly Journal of Science, published a study last week stating that the amount of time a baby maintains eye contact correlates with being diagnosed with autism later on. Researchers found that children who were diagnosed with autism at age 3 didn't make eye contact as much as other babies between the ages of 2 and 6 months.

A big marker of autism is social difficulty and having trouble forming relationships, and eye contact is a big part of being able to communicate well. This new information shows that even babies use their eyes to communicate. The study found that 3-year-olds who weren't autistic spent a lot of time looking into their caregivers' eyes up until about 9 months.

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But if your newborn baby isn't locking eyes with you yet, don't jump to conclusions. The study doesn't hold up for babies younger than 2 months old. And despite their findings, the doctors who conducted the study warn parents against using this one behavior as a diagnosis. "We don't want to create concern in parents that if a child isn't looking at them all the time, it's a problem," Dr. William Jones tells the New York Times. "It's not. Children are looking all over the place."

 
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