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Birth weight, prematurity linked to autism

Children who are born underweight or early have more than double the risk of developing autism.

Birth weight, prematurity linked to autism

Children who are born underweight or early have more than double the risk of developing autism. Autism is a developmental and bio-neurological disorder, evident usually before the child is 30 months old. A child with autism has difficulties with social interaction and spoken communication like making and sustaining eye contact, smiling in response to another person or responding when spoken to, or the child has difficulties relating to people, plays differently, or displays unusual responses to the environment. Previous studies have indicated that low birth weight and being born prematurely are important risk factors for developmental problems in children. But the association between these factors and autism is less clear. To assess the risk factors to autism, specifically low birth weight and early gestation period, Canadian researchers looked at 565 children with autism and compared them to a set of children without autism, as well as to children with other developmental disabilities, such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, hearing loss or vision problems. It was found that birth weight of less than 2500 g and preterm birth at less than 33 weeks' gestation were associated with an approximately twofold increased risk for autism. The risk was found to be higher for girls than for boys. For all low-birth-weight children, the risk for autism was accompanied by other developmental problems, such as mental retardation, and was higher than the risk of developing autism alone. Further, children born prematurely were twice as likely to develop autism as others. An impaired fetus and infection during pregnancy may harm the neurological development of the fetus and lead to autism clubbed with other developmental disabilities. The findings support the idea that there are different kinds of autism and different mechanisms underlying those cases.
Pediatrics
June 2008
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