A study out of the University of Pennsylvania finds that babies with low birth weights are five times more likely to develop a condition on the autism spectrum, Time reports.
Routine screening for ASD is especially critical in light of medical advances that regularly save babies as little as 1 lb. "It's a public health red flag," says Jennifer Pinto-Martin, director of the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and the study's lead author. "We have a wave of these children coming down the pike because neonatal care has improved so dramatically. We are saving more and more babies, and the consequences for their health are going to be profound."
The conclusions, which are published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, are the results of a study that began more than two decades ago. Researchers initially followed 1,105 children who were born in three New Jersey counties between 1984 and 1987, some of whom weighed just a pound at birth.
Researchers evaluated the children at ages 2, 6, 9, 16 and 21, looking each time at different outcomes -- behavioral, academic and psychiatric, to name a few. At age 16, they screened the children for autism. What they found was surprising: 117 of the 623 children screened positive, while 506 screened negative.
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