By CBS3 Staff

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A major discovery could lead to earlier treatment for autism. A study in the Jama Pediatrics journal suggests that children could be diagnosed as early as 14 months.

Current guidelines recommend screenings at 18 and 24 months. Experts say early diagnosis could mean earlier treatment.

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“The brain is developing earlier, so if you can diagnose it at age 14 months, before the connections have been made, those connections through behavioral therapy can be stronger,” physician David Agus said. “And so the hope is we can influence the brain with behavioral therapy much earlier, before those connections really start to kick in.”

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Autism is a spectrum disorder that may affect social skills, behavior and communication. Possible causes include genetics and older parents.