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Prematurity, Income Loss Studied in Relation to Autism

Autism behaviors common in children born very prematurely; disease linked to income loss

FRIDAY, April 4 (HealthDay News) -- A sample of toddlers who were born extremely prematurely had a high prevalence of autism spectrum behaviors, and families of children with autism tend to face a substantial loss of household income, according to two studies published in the April 1 issue of Pediatrics.

In the first study, Catherine Limperopoulos, Ph.D., of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and colleagues analyzed data from 91 young children who weighed less than 1,500 grams at birth and had a gestational age at birth ranging from 23 to 30 weeks. At a mean age of 21.9 months, the researchers screened children using the parent-report Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, and found that 26 percent had positive results. Factors associated with an abnormal autism screening score included lower birth weight, male gender and gestational age.

In the other study, Guillermo Montes, Ph.D., and Jill S. Halterman, M.D., of the Children's Institute in Rochester, N.Y., analyzed data from 11,684 children in a national survey. Parents answered questions about the health of the child, household income, parents' educational level and other demographic factors. The researchers estimated the expected income of families of children with autism and compared it to their reported income. In this sample, 131 children had autism spectrum disorder (ASD); the average loss of annual income in these children's families was $6,200 (14 percent of their reported income).

"In a nationally representative study, fathers of children with autism were less likely to report full-time employment compared with fathers of the non-autistic population and were more likely to work part time. Thus, we speculate that the most likely explanation for loss of annual income in the context of childhood autism is that parents of a child with ASD make different working choices than other parents, perhaps because of the needs associated with ASD combined with the lack of appropriate community-based services and resources," the authors write.

Abstract - Limperopoulos
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Abstract - Montes
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