Thursday, November 17, 2011

November 17: World Prematurity Day

In honor of World Prematurity Day, I would like to raise awareness about prematurity as a risk factor for autism. Recent studies have found an increased risk of autism in infants born prior to 33 weeks gestation. Click here to visit Autism Speaks for a review of prematurity related research.

It is still unclear how or why premature birth may be related to autism. Parents of children who are born prematurely are often aware of the medical, physical and cognitive challenges that their child may face. However, these studies indicate that parents should also keep an eye on behavioral aspects of their child's development.

As an occupational therapist working in early intervention, I think it is important to educate parents about developmental delays that their child may be at risk of developing. I would like to see physicians, nurses, therapists and other medical professionals educating parents of premature infants about risk factors for autism. These parents are so often told to not worry and that their child will catch up (which is often true), that professionals don't always take their concerns about autism seriously.

How do you educate families about risk factors association with prematurity?

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