It's possible to identify signs of autism during the first six months of a child's life by tracking their eye movements, according to a new study and reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The study found that infants that were later diagnosed with autism tend to make less eye contact with their caregivers at an earlier age. The findings could lead to earlier intervention techniques.

"Before babies crawl or walk, they explore the world with their eyes; by measuring what they look at and what the don't, we learn about their social development and the experiences that will continue to guide their learning," Warren Jones, the lead author of the study, told the Atlantic Journal-Constitution. "And we've known that deficits in eye contact are a hallmark of autism in later life.

"Children with autism tend to make less eye contact," Jones continued. "In this study, we were able to track that down in early infancy, from the age of two months."

Teams of researchers from Marcus Autism Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University School of Medicine, followed 110 infants for the first three years of their lives. They used equipment to tack eye movement of the infants at the rate of 30 times per second.

"If we were able to use similar technologies to identify early signs of social disability, we could then consider interventions to build on that early eye-looking and help reduce some of the associated disabilities that often accompany autism," Jones said.

The devices measured the way children looked at and responded to social cues as they viewed their caregivers during interactions that were playful.

"What we found was that infants later diagnosed with autism were looking less and less at moms' eyes throughout the first two years of life," Jones said. "With this technology, it is possible to identify signs of autism in the first six months.

"That's really a huge part of why we are so excited about this," Jones continued.