Researchers have found evidence of autism in babies as young as 12 months, highlighting the importance of developing early intervention mechanisms.
While it is difficult to spot the signs in very young children, toddlers who exhibit signs of problems with social behaviour may explain some of the later problems of autism.
"If there's some early disruption to [the social] mechanisms that are involved in social learning, [...] children have many fewer opportunities to learn about their environment," explains Ms Ingersol, stating that the work of psychological scientists in developing ways to work with toddlers who show early signs of autism is vital to counteract this.
Siblings of people with autism also have a greater chance of developing the syndrome.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have found that brothers and sisters of autism patients show similar patterns of brain activity when looking at emotional facial expressions.
The reduced brain activity has been isolated to the parts of brain associated with empathy and there is an argument that these findings constitute a 'biomarker' for familial risk of autism.
Find out about Barchester's support for adults and children with a wide range of autistic spectrum conditions.