Birth Trauma and Autistic Traits

A study reported today concludes that birth trauma resulting in neonatal intensive care increases the likelihood a child will develop autistic traits.The article appears on several websites. Here is the link to USA Today:

The assertion that autism can be predicted in some cases within the first month of life indicates that at least some cases are not caused by post-birth exposure to toxins. No one has been immunized at a month, and I seriously doubt most month-old children have been chewing toxic toys. (We should ask what common experiences the parents, especially mothers, have.)

Signs of autism may show up in babies as young as 1 month old, a new study shows.
But the tip-offs are not the usual red flags, such as a lack of eye contact or smiling, the researchers noted.

Instead, they found babies who needed neonatal intensive care and were later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder were more likely to have abnormal muscle tone and differences in their visual processing than babies who went on to develop normally after time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

The ICU link is interesting to me because my arrival was complex. I was, in fact, in NICU due to a number of complications. If there is a link between birth complications and autistic traits, I would be an exemplar.

At 1 month, infants later diagnosed with autism were more likely to show "persistent neurobehavioral abnormalities" after hospital discharge than other babies. About 40% of babies later diagnosed with autism showed abnormalities in the way they visual tracked objects compared to about 10.5% of babies who did not get an autism diagnosis.

The doctors assumed I was likely mentally retarded, the label of the time. I was not reactive in the expected way. Again, it is a fascinating correlation. Reading the following leaves me even more impressed by the research:

More than half of babies later diagnosed with autism had abnormal arm tone — either too floppy or too rigid — compared to 22% of babies that developed normally.

I have atrophied muscle development of the right arm. My brachial-plexus muscle group is weak, as well. My back muscles, despite various exercises, remain slack, aggravated by scoliosis. Without more detail, it is sufficient to state that I definitely parallel the research population.

Intervention by age 2 offers the best outcome, the authors wrote.

As I have said and written many times, my mother was constantly engaged in physical therapy and intellectual stimulation during my early childhood. I have no doubt that her efforts helped me adapt to the world and achieve whatever I have accomplished.


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