The Weak Link: Hypotonia in Infancy and Autism Early Identification

Lidia V. Gabis, Meirav Shaham, Odelia Leon Attia, Shahar Shefer, Ruth Rosenan, Tal Gabis, Michal Daloya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Presenting symptoms and age specific differential diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), determine the age of initial assessment and the age of a definite diagnosis. The AAP recommends screening all children for ASD at 18 and 24 months followed by a comprehensive evaluation for children with developmental concerns. More recently it has been recommended that the evaluation should be performed at a younger age, with a diagnosis being made as early as the beginning of the second year of life resulting in earlier intensive intervention. Objective: To assess early developmental milestones in a cohort of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in order to find an objective and reliable early marker. We suggest that low muscle tone- hypotonia, is a sign that meets the above criteria of consistency and reliability and may be related to early diagnosis. Methods: We compared age distributions of ASD diagnosis in the presence of hypotonia in a dataset of 5,205 children diagnosed at Keshet Center. One thousand, one hundred eighty-two children (953 males) were diagnosed with ASD and compared to other developmental diagnoses. Within the ASD cohort we further analyzed for gender and pre-maturity differences. Results: In the presence of hypotonia, the mean age for ASD diagnosis was significantly lower (by 1.5 years for males and females) and this effect increased in children born at term as compared to pre-maturity. Conclusions: Hypotonia is a recognizable marker of ASD and may serve as a “red flag” to prompt earlier recognition and neurodevelopmental evaluation toward an autism diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number612674
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Volume12
DOIs
StatePublished - 4 Feb 2021

Keywords

  • autism
  • comorbidity
  • girls
  • hypotonia
  • infant

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