Association Between Early Developmental Milestones and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Einav Alhozyel, Leena Elbedour, Rewaa Balaum, Gal Meiri, Analya Michaelovski, Ilan Dinstein, Nadav Davidovitch, Orly Kerub, Idan Menashe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Early diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been shown to lead to better prognosis. Here, we examined the association of commonly measured early developmental milestones (DMs) with later diagnosis of ASD. We conducted a case-control study of 280 children with ASD (cases) and 560 typically developed children (controls) matched to cases by date of birth, sex, and ethnicity in a control/case ratio of 2:1. Both cases and controls were ascertained from all children whose development was monitored at mother-child health clinics (MCHCs) in southern Israel. DM failure rates during the first 18 months of life in three developmental categories (motor, social, and verbal) were compared between cases and controls. Conditional logistic regression models were used to assess the independent association of specific DMs with the risk of ASD, while adjusting for demographic and birth characteristics. Significant case-control differences in DM failure rates were observed as early as 3 months of age (p < 0.001), and these differences increased with age. Specifically, cases were 2.4 times more likely to fail ≥ 1 DM at 3 months (aOR = 2.39; 95%CI = 1.41–4.06), and 15.3 times more likely to fail ≥ 3 DMs at 18 months (aOR = 15.32; 95%CI = 7.75–30.28). The most notable DM-ASD association was observed for social DM failure at 9–12 months (aOR = 4.59; 95%CI = 2.59–8.13). Importantly, the sex or ethnicity of the participants did not affect these DM-ASD associations. Our findings highlight the potential role of DMs as early signs of ASD that could facilitate earlier referral and diagnosis of ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1511-1520
Number of pages10
JournalResearch on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
StatePublished - May 2023


  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Developmental Milestone
  • Early Signs
  • Epidemiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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