A two-decade-long study conducted by the US Government reveals that newborns who are born premature and smaller are five times more likely to develop autism.
Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study is the first to link low birth weight to autism after US researchers followed 862 children from birth into young adulthood.
Researchers charted the weight of each child, which ranged from 1.1 to 4.4 pounds at the time of birth. The study found that five percent of all low-birth weight babies are diagnosed with autism compared to just one percent of normal birth weight children in the general US population.
According to lead author Jennifer Pinto-Martin, director of the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing:
“As survival of the smallest and most immature babies improves, impaired survivors represent an increasing public health challenge.”
Pinto-Martin also notes:
“Cognitive problems in these children may mask underlying autism.”
She goes on to provide the following advice for parents:
“Early intervention improves long-term outcome and can help these children both at school and at home.”
At this time the exact reason for an increase in autism cases at low birth rates is still not known however it has long been understood that premature babies are prone to early cognitive delays.
Premature babies 5x more likely to be autistic study: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hfv9lzzgjLKRHA9MA1AR6j1L_v6Q?docId=CNG.ce88761a8c2baeac46f69c7a8623d206.3d1
Premature Baby in Incubator: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Couveuse_pour_pr%C3%A9matur%C3%A9.jpg