Autism Preemies

Updated: Jun 22


It's complicated!


If the first two years of “Miguel’s” life were a Facebook status, I would have to say, “it’s complicated”. Although I was not a new mother, I was a new preemie mom. Besides the basics of feeding, diaper changing, and love, I was in uncharted territory. At that time there wasn't a book on What to Expect during the first years with a Preemie and I’m not sure if there is one now.


I asked myself all the time, “How did I miss it?” “Why couldn’t I see what was right in front of me?” I thought to myself, “I knew the milestones of baby/child development.” What is important to know is that those milestones are adjusted when your baby is born prematurely. It makes sense in retrospect. Most pediatricians then had more of a wait-and-see approach, but as we all now know early detection is best.


 

How to calculate your child's adjusted age?


Here’s how you’d calculate the adjusted age

  • Subtract gestational age at birth from 40.

  • My son was born at 29 weeks gestation, he was 11 weeks premature.

  • If he is now 4 months old (16 weeks since birth), his corrected age is 5 weeks old.


This is good information to know. Instead of comparing your child’s birth age to the milestones of a 4-month-old baby, you or I in this case would use milestones from birth to 2 months of age. The pediatrician tells you this at each visit and lets you know which milestones your child meets or does not meet. These milestones were almost like a sliding scale. There were no definite dates or timelines which can be explained by saying that no two individuals are the same. The issue with that was, that even with all the appointments a premature child has during the first two years, I was told by pediatricians that preemies don’t catch up to their numerical age until they are about two years old. In retrospect, these obstacles could lead to children not just preemies and my child in particular being diagnosed or misdiagnosed for years.

Furthermore, Miguel was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder at five years old but was not diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder until he was nine years old and in the fifth grade.


For the first time in about 20 years, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics have just published an updated/revised pediatric developmental milestone guideline. The goal of updating the milestones is to help detect developmental delays earlier, as a result helping parents and their children to receive treatment sooner rather than later. For children and parents, this is a game-changer.


The CDC has a mobile app for google play and IOS phones in English and Spanish. See the following link; https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones-app.html


March of Dimes


Another great reference and resource for mothers of premature babies are The March of Dimes website https://www.marchofdimes.org/. You can find information regarding research and studies, parenting information, and how to donate to further research. As one of the former Ambassador families for my local chapter of The March of Dimes, I encourage volunteering for local marches and raising money to further research and prevention of premature births and deaths.


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