Niko Stevens loves playing with his big brother Shawn. Niko is 3. He is autistic and doesn't speak.
"He can't say, 'Well, mommy, I just want a hug. Mommy, I just want a kiss,'" mom Violet Stevens said.
A new study finds the way an autistic child's brain responds to words at an early age can help predict the child's future language skills and social behavior.
Researchers tested the brain patterns of 2-year-olds on the autism spectrum. They found children who had patterns similar to a typical child progressed well by age 4 and 6. But children whose response was more scattered went on to struggle.
"It will help us to identify very early in life-- this is at age 2-- which children are going to have difficulties so that we can then provide them with extra treatments," said Dr. Geraldine Dawson, a co-author of the study.
About 20 percent of children with autism do not speak. Research has shown these children can benefit from iPads or speech-generating devices.
Niko's mom says even though he cannot talk, he can communicate.
"If he is thirsty, he'll get his cup, he'll bring his cup. If there's a toy he wants, he'll bring it to you," Violet said.
She remains optimistic the words will come. They can't say he's definitely going to talk, but you just have to hopeful that he can. And if he doesn't, they're prepared to handle it as a family.
Researchers say the results held four years after initial tests, regardless of the types of treatment the children received.
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