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Early recognition of 1-year-old infants with autism spectrum disorder versus mental retardation

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 June 2002

Previous work based on observations of home videotapes indicates that differences can be detected between infants with autism spectrum disorder and infants with typical development at 1 year of age. The present study addresses the question of whether autism can be distinguished from mental retardation by 1 year of age. Home videotapes of first birthday parties from 20 infants later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, 14 infants later diagnosed with mental retardation (without autism), and 20 typically developing infants were coded by blind raters with respect to the frequencies of specific social and communicative behaviors and repetitive motor actions. Results indicated that 1-year-olds with autism spectrum disorder can be distinguished from 1-year-olds with typical development and those with mental retardation. The infants with autism spectrum disorder looked at others and oriented to their names less frequently than infants with mental retardation. The infants with autism spectrum disorder and those with mental retardation used gestures and looked to objects held by others less frequently and engaged in repetitive motor actions more frequently than typically developing infants. These results indicate that autism can be distinguished from mental retardation and typical development by 1 year of age.

Corresponding author
Julie A. Osterling, Center on Human Development and Disability, Box 357920, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 98195; E-mail:
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Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
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