Early Childhood Development

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A focus on early development is critical to developing a complete understanding of the essence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Developmental research at CHOP/Penn spans the lifespan, beginning in infancy. Our program aims to understand the developmental origins of ASD and to use that knowledge to improve early detection and to develop better treatments. Research has shown that the earlier we’re able to initiate treatment and therapies, the better the overall outcomes are in the long term.

Our current and past studies of early childhood development and detection of autism include:

  • The NIH- funded Infant Brain Imaging Study to understand genetics and brain development in infants who have an older sibling diagnosed with ASD
  • The CDC-sponsored Study to Explore Early Development (SEED) to understand the physical and behavioral characteristics of young children with ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders; risk factors associated with ASD; and common co-existing diagnoses.
  • The NIH-funded Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI), which aims to find clues to autism beginning in the womb.
  • studies designed to improve instruments for early detection of ASD, before the earliest behavioral symptoms of autism are visible
  • studies designed to reveal differences in social cognition and brain function in young children with ASD