Special Report: The Face of Autism

Special Report: The Face of Autism

A new study is linking children's facial features to autism.
Zach Koga is not your typical 11-year old.

The history buff can probably tell you everything you need to know about World War 2.

He’s not camera-shy, and has a healthy curiosity.

But Zach is autistic. He was diagnosed with the disorder when he was three. Now researchers say his face shows it.

Researchers at the University of Missouri found there are subtle differences in kids with autism, using images of 64 boys between 8 and 12 years old.

The shots are captured by a camera system often used in reconstructive surgery.

Researchers map out 17 points using the 3D image and calculate the distance between them.

The results?

A distinct facial pattern in kids who had autism, to those who did not.

The boys with autism show a broader upper face, wider eyes, and a shorter middle region - including the cheeks and nose.

The study also found two different subgroups of autistic kids, which may later help better study these groups.

“We can look at the face in these kids and predict some of the behavioral traits that you might see,” Kristina Aldridge, assistant professor at University of Missouri said.

Researchers remind us the study is not a tool or measure to diagnose young kids.

But it can help look for a cause, which gives those like Zach hope for a cure.

“If there's something that Zach can do to help other children down the line, I just see this as a great blessing,” Melissa said.

Doctors hope to expand their study to examine girls, different age groups, and even family members.

They want to determine if there is a genetic answer behind the disorder.
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