New study says low birthweight may be linked to autism

Babies born weighing less than 4lb are more likely to develop autism than children born at normal weight, suggests a US study

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An American study of babies has found that babies born with a low birthweight are more prone to autism than babies who were heavier at birth. Experts found that 5% of the 862 New Jersey children born with a low birthweight were diagnosed with autism, compared to only 1% of the general population.

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“Cognitive problems in these children may mask underlying autism. If there is suspicion of autism or a positive screening for ASD, parents should seek an evaluation for an ASD. Early intervention improves long-term outcomes and can help these children both at school and at home,” explained Jennifer Pinto-Martin, professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and director of the autism centre, reports the BBC.

However, other researchers believe more studies are needed before establishing the link between low birthweight and autism.

“The association looks real, but nevertheless, most low birthweight children don’t have autism,” said developmental neuropsychology professor Dorothy Bishop from University of Oxford.

For more information, read our guide to Autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in the news.

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