Researchers have identified another factor in the development of autism spectrum disorder: body overgrowth in early childhood. The study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that boys with autism developed significantly larger heads and longer, heavier bodies than their normally developing peers in the first two years after birth. These effects were not significant in girls. When the autistic children were tested at four years old for verbal and nonverbal skills, large body size and overgrowth in the postnatal period correlated with lower performance. Lead author and associate professor in the Yale Child Study Center Katarzyna Chawarska said these growth patterns might help in autism diagnosis. “I believe that somatic overgrowth might be an early marker of less optimal outcomes in ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder], as atypical growth features in the first two years of life were associated with more severe symptoms one to two years later as well as lower levels of verbal and cognitive functioning,” she said.
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