(HealthDay News) – Both preterm (<37 weeks) and post-term (>42 weeks) gestational age (GA) children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) display more severe symptoms compared with those born at a normal GA.

To evaluate the effect of GA on symptom severity in children with ASD, Tammy Z. Movsas, MD, and Nigel Paneth, MD, of Michigan State University in East Lansing, used responses to the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) and Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) completed by 4,188 mothers of children with ASD, aged 4–21 years, via an online Web registry.

The researchers found that preterm and post-term GA children had significantly higher SCQ and SRS scores compared with ASD children born at normal GA, indicating more severe symptoms. Compared with children with ASD born at normal GA, preterm GA children with ASD were more likely to self-injure.

“In summary, normal GA at birth appears to somewhat mitigate the severity of autistic social impairment in ASD children. Furthermore, the categories of ASD traits that are most affected by GA appear to differ for preterm and post-term children,” the authors write.

Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)