Atypical social development in neonatal intensive care unit survivors at 12 months

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Background:Owing to advances in neonatal intensive care, many infants who are hospitalized in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) can survive and grow, and are referred to as NICU survivors. However, social development in NICU survivors has not been fully explored.Methods:To examine the social development of NICU survivors, a questionnaire consisting of the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M–CHAT) was used. The M–CHAT was completed by the parents of either NICU survivors (n= 117) or normally delivered children (control group, n= 112) during their regular medical checkups at a corrected age of 12 months.Results:Ninety percent of NICU survivors and 63% of control children did not pass the M–CHAT screen. As it was originally designed for children aged 18–30 months, failed M–CHAT items could have been due to developmental issues and not due to autistic spectrum disorders. However, there was a significant difference in the total number of items failed between the two groups. In particular, many NICU survivors did not pass on M–CHAT items, such as oversensitivity to noise, unusual finger movements, and attempts to attract attention. Concerning perinatal complications, infants with low birthweight and/or the need for respiratory support tended to have a higher number of failures on all M–CHAT items.Conclusions:NICU survivors may have distinct developmental patterns of social communication, and should be followed up for assessment of social skills and neurological development.

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