A new study shows a simple pull to sit test in 6-month-olds could predict the risk of autism.
"Head control starts at 2 months of age. I would say by 6 months all babies should be able to right that and not have any head lag," said Dr. Joseph Stegman of Carolinas HealthCare System.
With head lag, a child's head flops back because of weak head and neck control.
Researchers looked at a group of 40 high-risk babies who had an autistic sibling. Ninety percent of infants with head lag at 6 months were later diagnosed with autism. More than half of children with head lag also had social or communication delays. But experts point out it's not a sure thing. Some of the children who had head lag did not develop autism, while others without head lag did. Researchers say more study is needed, but suggest pediatricians add the "pull-to-sit" test to other developmental screenings.
"If we can find something that will direct us at a younger age, earlier treatment, early intervention, better outcomes," Stegman said.
The Centers for Disease Control now estimates 1 in 88 children have autism in the U.S.
Doctors say premature babies can also have delays in head and neck control.
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