Health Medical

Autism Spectrum Disorder can be diagnosed as early as 18 months, new hair test developed


HQ Team

January 10, 2023: Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder is not an easy task as doctors need a behavioural pattern and development history to come to any conclusion. The Autism Research Institute recently came out with some guidelines and tips for parents and caregivers to recognize the symptoms as early as when children are 18 months old.

Children with autism may have a variety of social, communication and behavioural symptoms that can include difficulty in communicating with other people, tone of voice, poor eye contact and repetitive behaviour. A qualified specialist’s help can then be sought to evaluate any of the symptoms mentioned above.

In a related development,  researchers have developed a first-of-its-kind test for autism that they say can find risk markers in a single strand of hair, which can help clinicians diagnose the spectrum early. 

The test, still in its early stages, has been developed by the startup LinusBio. It uses hair as it can carry a history of exposure to metals and other substances that the researchers say are associated with autism. 

It has innovated an algorithm to analyze this type of exposure history over time. The analysis predicted autism accurately about 81% of the time, according to a peer-reviewed study published last month in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. 

Expert opinion gathered by various news outlets about the LinusBio’s test is caution and that more research is needed. All agreed the findings should be replicated by other teams.

A myriad of factors are considered to be associated as causes for autism. Researchers’ count of risk factors includes infections during pregnancy, air pollution, and maternal stress. Some pollution from metals, which is known to cause neurodevelopmental problems, has been associated with it too.

The Test

The LinusBio test analyzes the history of the metabolism, telling the story of what substances or toxins the child has been exposed to over time, according to Manish Arora, the company’s co-founder and CEO, who is also a professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The technology was developed from research completed at Mount Sinai.

Autism diagnosis timing

Arora and his team hope their technology could help young children, even newborns, receive early interventions for autism sooner than they can now. 

“The problem with autism is it’s diagnosed at the age of 4 on average. By that time, so much brain development has already happened,” he said. “We want to enable early intervention.”


It has been observed that people with autism may have difficulty regulating or modulating their tone of voice, according to the institute. They may speak too loudly, too quietly or with a monotone voice.

Another noticeable symptom of autism is avoidance of any kind of eye contact. A child with autism usually fails to recognize any facial expressions, physical gestures and overall body language.

Repetitive behaviour is another common symptom, which can include rocking, spinning or flapping of the hands and arms or flickering their fingers in front of their eyes.

Generally, children with autism show atypical behaviour while handling toys. They like to play by tirelessly spinning coins or flicking light switches on and off etc. Children with autism have certain ritualistic behaviour while playing or eating, and any diversion from this pattern can upset them.

Some children have been observed to band their heads, bite or scratch their hands repeatedly. Parents should talk to their child’s doctor right away if their child is engaged in self-injury.

The institute notes that there are many medical, sensory, nutritional and behavioral approaches to treating these behaviors.

Certain conditions can occur along with autism, including seizures, sensory sensitivities, anxiety, sleep disturbances and gastrointestinal, metabolic and immune dysregulation.

Many adults too, are diagnosed with autism. This is likely due to increased awareness and screening.

The timely diagnosis of ASD, and referral for intensive behavioural and educational interventions at the earliest age possible, may lead to better long-term outcomes by capitalizing on the brain’s neuroplasticity at younger ages. 

According to the World health organization, about one in 100 children has autism, and it is generally diagnosed late in life. It has been found to be more prevalent among boys than girls.WHO clarifies that there is no available epidemiological data to conclude that there is any causal association between measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, and autism. Previous studies suggesting a causal link were found to be filled with methodological flaws.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on autism spectrum disorder.

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