Autism Is Linked to This Physical Characteristic, Says New Study


A new study published in Autism Research found a link between boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the rapid skeletal growth since they’re born and until they reach the age of three.

Researchers at the La Trobe University (Melbourne, Australia) looked at the growth of 134 boys with ASD compared to 74 boys who were neurotypical. The scientists looked at the charts that showed constant measurements in height, weight, and head circumference at different ages (5, 8, 12, 18, 42 months old). They didn’t include premature boys who were on growth treatment.

The result of the research showed that baby boys with ASD had a smaller head circumference when they were born (compared to the average boy without ASD) – 1.2 cm (0.5 in.) smaller. They were 4.8 cm (1.9 in.) shorter and lighter (0.2 kg – 0.4 pounds).

Then, as they reached three years old, the babies with ASD outgrew the ones without ASD. They seem to grow faster than neurotypical children, but the weight is not affected by the disorder.

Gene Mutations Can Influence Head Growth

Cherie Green is the co-author of the study and a research fellow at La Trobe University. She suggests that this rapid growth in babies with ASD could be because of a growth-hormone imbalance.

Green adds that “once you sort of start to understand a bit more about the biology, it might lead us to identifying particular subgroups.” She believes that speculating that people that have the gene CHD8 mutated could have a larger head, and those with gene DYRK1A mutated could have a smaller head.

The study was conducted on a small number of subjects, and only with data on boys. ASD can occur differently in boys and girls. It affects over 1% of the population and researchers are hoping to find a way and determine what else except the brain is involved in the disorder, said Green. They will further their investigations, focusing on adolescents to see if their growth can say something about the severity of autistic traits.


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