What Facial Features are Associated With Autism?

We have seen that larger brains have been observed in children with autism, now a study by the University of Missouri concludes that children with autism do share some of the same facial features. The differences are subtle though, and looking at a crowd you would be hard pressed to pick out the children with autism by appearance alone (unlike the very distinct features of a child with down syndrome for example). They study chose to focus on the ages of 8-12 (this age group was selected since they have completed between 90-95% of head growth). Researchers then measured the distance between 17 points on the face to see if children with autism shared any facial features.

A few things that were noticed in boys with autism after the data had been collected and analyzed:

  • Wider eyes. Not only were the actual eye sockets slightly larger, but the distance between pupils was greater as well.
  • A wider mouth area, as well as the divot on the upper lip was wider.
  • A broad upper face area, but a shorter middle region of the face with a flattened nasal bridge.

Most of these differences are so minor that you would not be able to distinguish them just by looking at a group of children.  However, they become very distinct once measured mathematically.  This type of research is important for several reasons:

  • We know that the facial features develop during the middle of the first trimester (click for information on maternal risk factors). Thus scientist can now look at genetic/environmental factors at that time of development in the fetus.
  • This is more fuel for the fire to show that autism is probably present before birth-once again deflating the vaccine/cause argument that for some reason still rages on.
  • Since we know what time the face develops and which specific genes are responsible, this could be another milemarker in the development of a treatment/prevention.
Every piece of the puzzle that we can decode takes us one step closer to treatment and prevention.  There are so many unknowns concerning the cause of autism, when we make discoveries such as this it narrows that focus just a little more.  It allows us to hopefully someday develop a concrete test to determine a mother’s predisposition to having a child diagnosed with autism, and if that risk is high maybe have a treatment in place to reduce or eliminate that risk.
One of the best books we have came across concerning the signs of autism is: Could It Be Autism?: A Parent’s Guide to the First Signs and Next Steps. It is available on Amazon for instant download, or you can get a copy shipped to your address. (Note, should you chose to buy we will make a small commission.)
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