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Is Infant Diagnosis of Autism Possible?

An Interview with Philip and Osnat Teitelbaum


Updated April 09, 2014

Is Infant Diagnosis of Autism Possible?
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Research Suggesting Markers for Autism in Infants

Is it possible to diagnose autism in an infant? While Dr. Philip Teitelbaum and his wife Osnat don't claim they can actually diagnose autism in a child of two or three months old, they do believe that they have found a key to early detection. In fact, they say they found that key back in 1998.

Philip Teitelbaum is a professor of psychology at the University of Florida. His research was unrelated to autism, but he had an idea based on animal research that he wanted to explore. He put out a call to families with children with autism, asking for videotapes of the childrens' earliest days. Then, together with his wife, a researcher, he went over each tape with a fine-tooth comb, using a specialized system of observation and measurement of motion.

The couple found that the infants in the tapes had a set of easy-to-detect physical "aberrations" which set them apart from typically developing infants. For example, if the children were held at an angle they didn't right their heads. They also had a differently shaped mouth, and other oddities. Based on these findings, the Teitelbaums published a paper, and then a second paper. But since then, no other researcher has picked up on their research - and while the Teitelmans themselves have promoted their work, they haven't proceeded to verify their claims through additional research.

The Book: Putting The Process in the Hands of Parents

Appearances on television and articles failed to attract much interest, but the Teitelbaums decided to write a book intended for parents. Says Osnat: "We hope that parents will demand that the medical establishment respond, and we are quite certain that they will."

The book, Does Your Baby Have Autism? is subtitled "A Revolutionary Theory for the Early Diagnosis of Autism," and it recommends a variety of actions on the part of parents to determine whether a child has the telltale signs of autism. Yet the Teitelbaums make the point "We are not in the medical profession; we can't make a diagnosis." Which I think may lead parents to wonder why the book seems to encourage parents to make their own diagnosis based on a set of line drawings. In fact, that's an excellent question, especially since there's no way for any medical professional to confirm a parents' concerns until the infant is old enough for conventional evaluation.

In my interviews with the Teitelbaums and their publisher, Square One Publishers, I found they likened themselves to Jonas Salk, who was ridiculed for his invention of vaccines until he proved himself through radical experiments. But neither of the Teitelbaums are neurologists, and neither claims to have the ability to treat autism. Both make it plain that they are not clinicians, and while they recommend treatment in their book, they have no research to show that the treatments are likely to slow or lessen autistic symptoms.

Have this couple discovered the key to a massive change in autism diagnosis and treatment? Click the second page to read my interview with them:

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