AbstractBölte, S., Marschik, P., Falck-Ytter, T., Charman, T., Roeyers, H., & Elsabbagh, M. (2013) Infants at risk for autism: A European perspective on current status, challenges and opportunities European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Currently, autism cannot be reliably diagnosed before the age of two years, which is
why longitudinal studies of high-risk populations provide the potential to generate
unique knowledge about the development of autism during infancy and toddlerhood
prior to symptom onset. Early autism research is an evolving field of child psychiatric
science. Key objectives are fine mapping of neurodevelopmental trajectories and
identifying biomarkers in order to improve risk assessment, diagnosis and treatment.
ESSEA (Enhancing the Scientific Study of Early Autism) is a COST (European
Cooperation in Science and Technology) Action striving to create a European
collaboration to enhance the progress of the discovery and treatment of the earliest
signs of autism, and to establish European practice guidelines on early identification
and intervention by bringing together European expertise from cognitive neuroscience
and clinical sciences. The objective of this article is to clarify the state of current
European research on at risk autism research, and to support the understanding of
different contexts in which the research is being conducted. We present ESSEA survey
data on ongoing European high risk ASD studies, as well as perceived challenges and
opportunities in this field of research. We conclude that although high risk autism
research in Europe faces several challenges, the existence of several key factors (e.g.
new and/or large scale autism grants, availability of new technologies, and involvement
of experienced research groups) lead us to expect substantial scientific and clinical
developments in Europe in this field during the next years.