ARCHIVED Plug in Baby – Early vs Late Autism Diagnosis

ARCHIVED: Please note, whilst every effort has been made to update blog posts, this blog post has been archived and may present outdated and incorrect information and terminology. 

Yesterday I was drawn to an article in the paper entitled “Plug in Baby”, mainly because of the cute baby wearing a peculiar hat sprawled across the page. The article was referring to a study conducted at Durham University which hoped to reveal how babies learn from others, and in particular how autism develops. Using a sensor filled cap the babies were shown images of people walking, then placed in a small bath to ‘walk’ using their ‘walk reflex’. The results will be compared to babies who have no experience of ‘walking’ in order to enlighten us on how exactly babies learn. If all goes accordingly then psychologist Dr Vincent Reid hopes the test may help to spot the signs of autism in infants at an early age. Currently diagnosis cannot be reliably made until the infant is around three years of age.

This got me thinking, what exactly are the advantages to an early diagnosis and are there any drawbacks to being diagnosed so early in life? For myself, having had a much later diagnosis, it depends on whether or not the autism is in my good books. When I’m feeling particularly inept at life I often curse the teachers and doctors who didn’t pick up on my strange and anxious ways when I was a child; I think life would have been much easier for me had people known about it from the word go. However, when I am sat around with a group of friends having a laugh and feeling totally at ease, I am thankful I didn’t know because it forced me out of my shell, I strived to appear ‘normal’ and would not allow myself to become the recluse I so desperately wanted to be. But the grass is not always greener on the other side, and if researchers could come up with a reliable way to test infants early in life then I would be the first to celebrate, right after I’d criticised their methods and the implications of it of course!

Advantages to Early Diagnosis:

  • Special developmental tools can be put in place, e.g. education and therapy, to ensure the child reaches their full potential, which may also in turn lessen the impact of mental health problems and improve general well being.
  • Ease the child’s anxiety as they will not be expected to do things they find difficult.
  • Increase the understanding of the condition and how it develops.
  • Increase the speed other members of the family also with the condition may be detected.


  • Misdiagnosis may occur as many will be too young to fully observe behavioural patterns. No test is 100% exact.
  • Labelling from an early age may lead to negative stereotypes being placed on the child, which they in turn will conform too.
  • Doesn’t tell you how  functioning the child is/will be.

The article can be read here:

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