Preemies and Autism

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Autism are most likely to develop among those babies who were born early than their expected date of birth as to those infants born just within their due time of birth, according to a US study released this Monday.

A premature baby, or preemie, is born before the 37th week of pregnancy. Their weights are much more less than those full term babies. Accompanied by being born too early, are heightened health risks because of pre-mature organs and delays in development. These risks may involve breathing problems, and even death.  Special care necessitates these pre-term born babies because of their delicate situation. Most premature babies require care in a newborn intensive care unit (NICU), which has specialized medical staff and equipment that can deal with the multiple problems faced by premature infants. Pre-term births usually occur in between 8 percent to 10 percent of all pregnancies in the United States.

This new US study was a two-long decade study, which is the first to put a link between pre-mature babies and the risk of developing autism. The study traced down eight-hundred sixty-two (862) children from their birth until their reach adulthood with a birth weight ranging from 500 to 2,000 grams. The subjects of the study involved in the study were from the three counties in New Jersey, they were all born in the year 1984 to 1987.

Autism is known as a complex developmental disability. It is usually first diagnosed in early childhood. People with autism have difficulties communicating, forming relationships with others and find it hard to make sense of the world around them. Autism causes children to act in unusual ways or in ways they are familiar with. These routines can include flapping of their hands, saying certain words repeatedly, have temper tantrums, or play only with one particular toy. Most children with autism hesitate to have changes in their routines. They like to stay on a schedule that is always the same.

The results of the study reveal that across the time, there are about five (5) per cent of pre-term babies diagnosed of manifesting the said condition, as compared to the one per cent prevalence rate of autism in a general population.

According to Jennifer Pinto-Martin, Director of the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, and the lead author of the study, she said: “As survival of the smallest and most immature babies improves, impaired survivors represent an increasing public health challenge.”

“Early intervention improves long-term outcome and can help these children both at school and at home.” She further added.

According to the Statistics of Autism Society:

-          1 percent of the population of children in the U.S. ages 3-17 have an autism spectrum disorder.

-          Prevalence is estimated at 1 in 110 births.

-          1 to 1.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder.

-          $60 billion annual cost.

-          Cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention.

-          In 10 years, the annual cost will be $200-400 billion.

-          The cost of autism over the lifespan is 3.2 million dollars per person.11




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