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.