It is critical to understand how early observable behavioral signs of ASD map onto the brain developmental trajectories, and how or whether brain development in autism can be modulated by early interventions. The findings emerging from the study suggest that brain developmental trajectories diverge (differ) from those seen in young children without ASD as early as in the second year of life. Because brain development is most malleable in the first years of life, results from studies like ours can help with identifying brain circuits that might be most responsive to early interventions (including specific types of interventions).
What are the goals of the study?
Our study aims to examine links between behavioral symptoms of autism and brain development during early childhood. Families are invited to come back for repeat assessments every two years, until the child is 6 years old.
What will happen during the visit or online?
The child will be invited to participate in play-based developmental evaluation (with the results made available to caregivers). In close collaboration with the families, we develop individualized protocol for the most optimal bedtime MRI scan (we scan toddlers and preschoolers while they are naturally asleep at their usual bedtime). We work with the families to determine the best plan for the night scan (trying to approximate the setting in which the child is used to sleep, including co-sleeping with a parent if desired) and to desensitize the child to the scanner noise in advance of the scheduled scan.
How will this help families?
Families participating in our study usually find the participation rewarding. They are learning about their child’s development, and receive formal report summarizing their child’s developmental skills and level of autism symptoms. These reports are often helpful in initiating services. Families find the interaction with our clinical team most valuable, and often think of our team as a resource for information, referrals, etc.