Atypical object exploration at 12 months of age is associated with autism in a prospective sample

Sally J Ozonoff, Suzanne Macari, Gregory S. Young, Stacy Goldring, Meagan Thompson, Sally J Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

203 Scopus citations


This prospective study examined object exploration behavior in 66 12-month-old infants, of whom nine were subsequently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Previous investigations differ on when the repetitive behaviors characteristic of autism are first present in early development. A task was developed that afforded specific opportunities for a range of repetitive uses of objects and was coded blind to outcome status. The autism/ASD outcome group displayed significantly more spinning, rotating, and unusual visual exploration of objects than two comparison groups. The average unusual visual exploration score of the autism/ASD group was over four standard deviations above the mean of the group with no concerns at outcome. Repetitive behaviors at 12 months were significantly related to cognitive and symptomatic status at 36 month outcome. These results suggest that repetitive or stereotyped behaviors may be present earlier than initially thought in very young children developing the autism phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-472
Number of pages16
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2008


  • Autism
  • Diagnosis
  • Early identification
  • Repetitive behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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