Young Minds

Autism Detected in Baby Babble: Study

New research released Tuesday suggests that a baby’s babbling may contain clues that can help determine if the child is autistic. Researchers at the University of Memphis have designed a computer program that can reportedly distinguish between the speech of unaffected children with autism—and they claim it can correctly differentiate more than 85 percent of youngsters. Scientists tucked miniature voice recorders—each about the weight of a candy bar—into the chest pockets of more than 200 children ages 10 months to four years and recorded everything that came out of the children’s mouths for about a week and tested it with the software. They discovered that autistic children tended to have more obvious speech impediments, such as slurring syllables. Kim Oller, head of the research team, said the results were “totally surprising,” but they're welcome news. The earlier the detection of autism, the more effective intensive therapy will usually be.