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The Way Your Baby Cries Could Be a Sign of Autism -- But Don't Panic

by Mary Fischer on November 28, 2012 at 11:35 AM

crying babyThese days, pretty much every parent is on the lookout for possible signs of autism in their babies, and now it looks as though there may be another early clue to watch out for.

Scientists at Brown University have determined that a baby's cry may be linked to a risk of developing autism, based on a study they conducted where they compared the ways different cries sounded.

Research was done on 40 different babies who were all video taped at the age of 6 months. And their findings were pretty interesting -- 21 of the babies had higher pitched cries, which put them into the "at-risk" category because the cries show that their vocal chords are more tense than low-risk infants.

And even more shocking is that the three babies in the group who had the highest pitched cries all went on to be diagnosed with autism.

Ok, so I'm sure you're wondering what tipped off researchers that a possible link could exist between autism and crying. Well, children with autism typically make atypical sounds, so they thought maybe there would be a difference in cries early on. Also, cries are associated with brain development, so researchers figured it was worth a shot to test things out.

And they're definitely expecting a bit of a panic as a result of this study, because the lead author on the case, Stephen Sheinkopf, said, "We definitely don’t want parents to be anxiously listening to their babies cry. It’s unclear if the human ear is sensitive enough to detect this."

That's all well and good, but it's easier said than done, buddy. How is any parent reading this going to avoid having their ears perk up to look for discrepancies in their baby's cry every time they wake up screaming in the middle of the night from here on out? If I had an infant, I'd probably be a lot more in tune after hearing about this possible link.

But at the same time, if we obsess and freak out every time our babies let out a higher pitched cry, we'll go insane -- so heeding the warning not to panic is probably best.

If nothing else, we should see this study as a good thing, because it has the potential to help diagnose kids with autism earlier, which leads to them receiving treatment earlier, and so on and so forth.

Will this information make you more likely to pay attention to how your baby's cry sounds?


Image via bbaunach/Flickr

Filed Under: colic & crying, autism


  • early...


    November 28, 2012 at 12:31 PM
    So strange. I know someone thats child has autism and I always told my husband that that baby has the high pitched baby cry clear past the 11 month mark !!!! U kn ow that high newborn cry ??? It was so loud and I never evereeverever would think of the correlation
  • Gabri...
    -- Nonmember comment from


    November 28, 2012 at 2:44 PM
    Very interesting article cMy son was diagnosed with Aspergers earlier this year (at age 4). I remember when he was a baby we would refer to his cry as the "pterodactyl screech" because it was so high pitched and so loud.
  • Mommi...


    November 28, 2012 at 3:59 PM
    My autistic 4 yr old never had a high pitched cry if anything he rarely cried even as a newborn. But just like neuro typical children , no Autistic child is cookie cutter. Im glad that there are some more signs for parents to look out for, early intervention is key.
  • Eva...
    -- Facebook comment from

    Eva Jean Patten-Roby

    November 28, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    ok so im listening to my newborn baby screaming as i read this article and i am now official freaked out. :/


  • Naomi...
    -- Facebook comment from

    Naomi Hovey

    November 28, 2012 at 6:10 PM
    Why are you letting your newborn scream while you read stuff on the internet.....
  • Wren...
    -- Facebook comment from

    Wren La Pirata

    November 28, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    Because you can try and calm a newborn WHILE on the internet.  OMG!  SAY IT ISN'T SO!  God forbid a mom multitasks.  Maybe she came across this while looking up ways to sooth her baby.

  • Angel...
    -- Facebook comment from

    Angelica Medina

    November 28, 2012 at 7:46 PM

    haha really naomi? Get off your high horse. Maybe the kids was crying for the last 6 hours and mom finally gave up. 10 min on the internet and a baby crying is better than shaking it

  • Laure...
    -- Facebook comment from

    Lauren Wasinger

    November 28, 2012 at 10:46 PM

    "If nothing else, we should see this study as a good thing, because it has the potential to help diagnose kids with autism earlier, which leads to them receiving treatment earlier, and so on and so forth."

    Actually, this study allows already nervous parents to self-diagnose their child based on a ridiculously small sample size. Seriously, it's irresponsible to distribute this sort of reasearch before larger samples are used and more controls are applied. Correlation and causation are totally different things.

  • Cel7777


    November 29, 2012 at 12:53 AM

    ^^Exactly Lauren Wasinger. We don't need anymore unfounded Autism paranoia.

  • Lisa...
    -- Facebook comment from

    Lisa Schneider

    November 29, 2012 at 8:01 PM
    40 babies were involved in the study? In the world of science that is NOTHING. Several studies over many years involving many thousands of babies would need to be done to prove anything.
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