Dr. Hanna Alonim

Identifying Variables Associated with the Prodrome of Autism during the first Year of an Infant’s Life


Research Aims: While there are as yet no clear biological markers for ASD, evidence exists for the presence of behavioural markers for autism already within the first year of life. However, there is still a great deal that is unknown regarding the prodromal development of autism, early behavioural variables, and the effects of early intervention. This paper describes a pioneering study conducted at the Mifne Center assessing variables associated with autism in early infancy. Methodology: This study examined 110 infants between the ages of 3-15 months who were eventually diagnosed with autism at the age of 2-3 years. Retrospective analysis was conducted of video-recordings of the first months of their lives made by their parents before any suspicion concerning defective development arose.
Results: Eight variables associated with the prodrome of autism during the first 15 months of life were identified. These include: excessive passivity, excessive activity, lack of eye contact, lack of reaction, refusal to eat, aversion to touch, motor development delay and head circumference.
Conclusion: Symptoms associated with the prodrome of autism may be identified and allow early assessment and intervention for infants with the prodrome of autism in the first year of life.
Applications: The variables identified in this study form the basis of the “Early Signs of Pre-Autism Screening in Infants” (ESPASI) screening instrument suitable for infants between 5-15 months.

Further insights arising from the possibility of assessment and intervention at the very early stage of life will be presented in the lecture accompanied by video segments.

Keywords:  prodrome of autism, identifying variables, first year of life


Dr. Hanna A. Alonim, Ph.D in Mental Health, from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge UK,  is an expert and researcher on the autism spectrum in infancy, Founder and Head of the Mifne Center for Treatment, Training, and Research, since 1987. The Mifne Center specializes in the treatment of infants up to the age of two, diagnosed on the autism spectrum, from all over Israel and the world. The treatment program encompasses the entire nuclear family.

Dr. Alonim is the founder and Head of the Therapists Training School for Autism in Infancy at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv since 2001. She has taught academic seminars at Tel Aviv University, Haifa University, Israel; Basel University, Zurich University Switzerland; The Child Mental Health Center, London; UCLA, USA, Iash University, Romania, and Children Hospital, Brahman, Germany.

Since 2005, Dr. Alonim has developed the ESPASI screening scale for the identification of early signs of autism in the first year of life, and established the unit for the detection of autism in infants at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Her research, which she has presented worldwide relates to the issues of early signs of autism; detection and treatment of infants at risk; family factors and family therapy in autism; eating disorders in toddlers with autism .She is a member of the Helsinki Research Committee at the Ziv Medical Center, Israel. Since 2016 Alonim is a committee member of the ICF Core Set for ASD of the WHO organization, Stockholm.


Some of her publications include:
“Early Signs of Autism in First Year of Life: Identification of Key Factors Using Artificial Neural Networks”. IMFAR, US (2014).
“Origin of the Self, and Pathways to Autism”. Journal of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, 13, 270-279. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC (2013).
“Commentary on “The Protest of 6-month-Old Girl”. Journal of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, 12, 1-8. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. (2013).
“Early signs of autism in infants”. Israeli Journal of Pediatrics. vol. 76. (2011).
“Signs of autism in infants: Recognition and early intervention”. London: Karnac Books, ISBN.: 9781855754867. (Chapter 7). (2007).
“The Mifne Method”, Journal of Child & Adolescence Mental Health vol. 16(1,) 39-43. (2004).