Extremely premature babies show higher autism risk

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Children born extremely preterm may face a much higher-than-average risk of developing autism ...

... of 219 children born before the 26th week of pregnancy, 8 percent met the criteria for an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at age 11. That compared with none of 153 classmates who were born full-term and included in a comparison group.

The ASD rate was far higher than that in the general population, which experts estimate to be somewhere between one and nine cases per 1,000 children ...

ASD refers to a group of developmental disorders that hinder people's ability to communicate and build relationships. The conditions range from severe cases of "classic" autism to Asperger's syndrome -- a disorder in which a person has normal intelligence and verbal skills, but difficulty socializing and understanding subtler forms of communication, like body language and vocal tone.

"... the risk of it developing in children with no other problems is very low,"

... Medical advancements have meant that more and more very premature and low-birthweight newborns are surviving. Still, they face increased risks of delayed development, learning disabilities and behavioral problems later on.

... autism may arise via different mechanisms in extremely preterm children compared with those who were born full-term -- for whom ... genetics are believed to be key ...

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448