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Accelerated head growth can predict autism before behavioral symptoms start
Date:1/30/2008

ths of life, but are not reliably done after that. Head circumference is calculated from the brow, or ridge above the eyes, around to the bony bump on the back of the skull and back around to the brow. Three measurements, including at birth, were required to chart the growth of each child and compare it with the range of normal development.

Webb said in most cases parents would have a difficult time detecting abnormal growth because there is a range of normal head sizes. Approximately 20 percent of children with autism have abnormally large head sizes, or what is called macrocephaly.

Some of the children in our study started with a very small head size and later their growth accelerated. What we are looking for is disproportionate growth in children compared to the rest of their body. In this study nearly 60 percent of the autistic children had accelerated growth but only six of the children met the criteria for macrocephaly.

Webb said she sees this information being used by pediatricians to screen children and refer them earlier rather than later for evaluation and intervention before other symptoms develop. The UW researchers plan to further explore the implications of abnormal head size as part of a larger autism prevention study of 200 infants at high risk for the disorder that has just started. These youngsters have older siblings already diagnosed with autism and have a one in five chance of developing the disorder, which has a strong genetic component. The typical risk for autism is now believed to be one in 150.

Earlier research at the UW Autism Center by its founding director Geraldine Dawson showed that accelerated head growth in children with autism slows down in the second year of life and this deceleration coincides with a with a period of worsening symptoms of autism.


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Contact: Joel Schwarz
joels@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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