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HOUSTON Doctors and scientists say new research could be promising for families dealing with autism.

The research centers around early intervention and how it could decrease the severity of the disorder.

In some cases, doctors say they can spot signs of the disorder in babies who are just days old.

And very early play therapy, starting as young as 6 months, could mean a child who otherwise would have been autistic will never fully develop it.

Dr. Pauline Filipek of UT Children s Memorial Hermann Hospital specializes in autism. She says 4-month-old Kianna Moore is showing some of the earliest signs of the disorder.

She was being a good baby, which tends to make me a little nervous when babies are undemanding and quiet. Babies should be vocalizing and making noise, Filipek said.

There are warning signs that parents should watch out for. Doctors worry about babies who can t hold eye contact, who aren t babbling and who don t wave or point by the time they re a year old.

Also, babies should not regress, meaning if they reach a milestone like babbling and lose it, parents need to investigate.

But, Dr. Filipek says early and consistent therapy has helped children curb the average severity of the disorder. In some cases, she says it s been life-changing.

We are trying to achieve what every parent wants for their child and that s for their child to grow up and to be independent and successful in life, Filipek said.

Though it s baby steps in medical research, it could mean an enormous leap forward for the youngest of patients facing a lifelong diagnosis of autism.

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