Over the past decade our understanding of early social communication development in young children with autism has undergone a remarkable change. We now know something about how young children with autism process the social world in a very different way from typical children. This has led to truly developmental models of autism. In turn, these have had profound impacts on research and practice. Several screening instruments to prospectively identify autism have been developed. In some cases autism can be diagnosed in children as young as 2 years of age. The study of ‘high-risk’ siblings has allowed prospective study of infants from as young as 6 months of age. There is increasing evidence that intervention approaches that focus on social and communication development can ameliorate symptoms and change the developmental course of the disorder. This article will highlight some of the key theoretical and clinical lessons learned from this decade of research.

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