Early Infantile Autism: A Comprehensive Overview
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the most common developmental disorders affecting an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020). Early infantile autism is a subtype of autism diagnosed before the age of 3, and is characterized by significant impairments in social interaction, communication, and behavior (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive overview of early infantile autism, including diagnosis, causes, and evidence-based treatments.
To diagnose early infantile autism, clinicians use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) criteria (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The DSM-5 criteria for autism include deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors, deficits in developing and maintaining relationships, restricted and repetitive behaviors, and other symptoms such as anxiety, hyperactivity, and aggression (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). In addition, clinicians may use the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) to assess an individual’s level of autism severity (Lord et al., 2000).
The exact cause of early infantile autism is unknown; however, research suggests that it is likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors (Nelson, 2015). Genetic factors may include mutations in certain genes associated with autism, such as the autism susceptibility candidate 2 (AUTS2) gene, as well as chromosomal abnormalities (Nelson, 2015). Environmental factors may include viral infections, exposure to toxins, and maternal health issues (Nelson, 2015).
Although there is no known cure for early infantile autism, there are a number of evidence-based treatment options available. The most commonly used interventions include Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), speech therapy, occupational therapy, and developmental therapy (Garcia & Gantt, 2018). ABA is the most effective intervention and has been shown to improve social skills, communication, and behavior in individuals with autism (Garcia & Gantt, 2018). Other interventions, such as speech therapy and occupational therapy, can help individuals with early infantile autism learn to communicate more effectively and develop age-appropriate motor skills (Garcia & Gantt, 2018).
Early infantile autism is a subtype of autism that is diagnosed before the age of 3 and is characterized by deficits in social interaction, communication, and behavior. The exact cause of early infantile autism is unknown but is likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Although there is no known cure, there are a number of evidence-based treatment options available, such as Applied Behavior Analysis, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and developmental therapy.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
Garcia, N. J., & Gantt, S. (2018). Applied behavior analysis and autism spectrum disorder: An evidence-based approach. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Lord, C., Rutter, M., DiLavore, P. C., & Risi, S. (2000). Autism diagnostic observation schedule: A standardized observation of communicative and social behavior. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(3), 205–223. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005592401947
Nelson, K. (2015). Causes of autism. Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org/causes-autism