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Many characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorders can be identified by the age of 2 and are predictive of which children will be diagnosed with these disorders when they're older, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Illinois identified a number of behavioral problems and developmental deficits – including many associated with communication and language, social interaction and self-regulation – that if present when were 2 years old were predictive of their receiving an ASD diagnosis by age 4.

"We've found that you can identify autism early – around 2 years old," said lead author Laurie M. Jeans, who conducted the study as a graduate student at Illinois. "Different specialists who work with children with ASD are each focused on specific problems, but this research gathers all those pieces of information together and provides a much bigger picture."

Jeans, who is a professor of education at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, is a former developmental therapist and has experience working with children with autism. The study was drawn from an early research project that Jeans conducted while earning her doctoral degree in at Illinois.

Published in the Journal of Early Intervention, the study explored the development of 100 children with ASD in comparison to typically developing children and peers with disabilities. All of the children were participants in the U.S. Dept. of Education's Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort study, which assessed 14,000 children's development at multiple points, from their birth in 2001 until they entered kindergarten.

 Source & more: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-03-autism-earlier-thought.html