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Boys With Autism May Grow Faster as Babies
Date:10/7/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Boys with autism tend to grow faster as babies, with differences from typically developing infants seen in their head size, height and weight, a new study says.

Researchers said the findings may offer new clues about the underlying mechanisms of autism. A larger head size probably means the children also have a larger brain.

Boys with brain and body "overgrowth" tend to have more severe autism symptoms, particularly involving social skills, than autistic children who don't grow faster than normal. So, it's also possible the overgrowth is one of the causes of autism; that it somehow makes symptoms worse or represents a subtype of autism that's marked by both accelerated growth and severe social deficits, said study author Katarzyna Chawarska, an associate professor of child psychology at the Yale University Child Study Center.

Prior research has also found an association between accelerated head growth and autism. This study adds to that by showing that boys with autism have a tendency toward accelerated growth throughout the rest of the body.

"We found these children tend to have accelerated growth patterns in skeletal growth, including length or height, and a little later we see them getting a little heavier, suggesting enhanced muscle growth," Chawarska said.

While the focus of research has been on understanding why the brain grows faster in autistic kids, "now we need to extend our search to other factors that affect multiple morphological [structural] features," she said. "We need to ask why growth factors may be dysregulated in autism. And that's something we have no answer to now."

The study is published in the October issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder that's characterized by problems with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and restric
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