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Babbling 'used to identify autism'

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The sounds babies make when they babble can be used to identify those with autism, scientists have discovered.

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Scientists found the noises made by babies with the disorder are different to those from normal children.

Researchers used vocal analysis technology to pinpoint the differences with 86% accuracy, while the system was also able to spot very young children with impaired language development.

Professor Steven Warren, an expert in autism spectrum disorders at the University of Kansas, US, who took part in the study, said:

“This technology could help paediatricians screen children for ASD (autism spectrum disorder) to determine if a referral to a specialist for a full diagnosis is required and get those children into earlier and more effective treatments.”

Approximately 500,000 people in the UK are thought to be affected by autism. It is the name given to a group, or “spectrum”, of lifelong developmental conditions characterised by an inability to communicate with or relate to others, a lack of social skills, obsessional traits, and repetitive behaviour.

The US scientists analysed nearly 1,500 day-long vocal soundtracks from battery-powered recorders attached to the clothing of 232 children aged 10 months to 4 years.

In total more than three million individual child utterances were used in the research, reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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