New research could lead to earlier detection of autism

ATLANTA — Researchers in Atlanta are sharing what is being seen as a breakthrough in the early detection of autism.

Doctors a the Marcus Autism Center showed Channel 2 Action News how studying twins is leading to surprising findings about genetics that might eventually help children even earlier.

Director of Research Dr. Warren Jones walked us through breakthrough research video. In the video, you can see little cross marks that show where a toddler is "looking" at a video of other kids.

Jones said tracking how much a young child focuses on eyes and faces is an early indicator of autism.

"A clear behavioral feature of autism - reduced looking at other people's eyes - is something that turns up in all of the diagnostic screeners and diagnostic tests for autism, actually is strongly influenced by genetic factors. And that is an amazing link."

It's a genetic connection to what children do.

Researchers at the Marcus Autism Center are studying twins. When identical twins looked at the faces of other people, who were measured separately, their eyes seem to move together.


"It's much more similar. They match, moment by moment," Jones said as he walked us through the research video.

"To see their behavior matched one another's so closely if they were identical twins, was eye-popping,” Jones said.

Researchers hope the findings will move them to an even earlier way to identify and then support children on the autism spectrum.

Experts at the Marcus Center said they can identify children with autism by about 18-months-old, but many children are not diagnosed until they are 4 or 5 years old.