There may be a difference in the level of autism symptoms between children born normal term, pre-term or late, suggests a new study.
Researchers at Michigan State University suggest that autistic children born normal term, defined as 37 to 42 weeks for this research, have less severe symptoms than autistic children born early or late. Why this might be the case hasn’t been uncovered.
The research, which appears online in the Journal of Autism and Development Disorders, looked at 4,200 mums with autistic children aged 4 to 21 between 2006 and 2010. The mums filled out questionnaires about their autistic child’s symptoms.
“We think about autism being caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors,” said Tammy Movas, MD, “With pre-term and post-term babies, there is something underlying that is altering the genetic expression of autism.
“The outside environment in which a preterm baby continues to mature is very different than the environment that the baby would have experienced in utero. This change in environment may be part of the reason why there is a difference in autistic severity in this set of infants,” said Tammy, reports Psychcentral.com.
Nigel Paneth, MD, who worked on the study with Tammy, explained, “The findings point to the fact that although autism has a strong gentic component, something about pregnancy or the perinatal period may affect how autism manifests.”
Nigel said, “This adds to our earlier finding that prematurity is a major risk factor for autism spectrum disorder and may help us understand if anything can be done during early life to prevent or alleviate autism spectrum disorder.”