Autistic Children and Head Size
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior.
One of the physical characteristics that have been associated with autism is an enlarged head size, also known as macrocephaly.
In this article, we will explore the relationship between head size and autism, and what you need to know about this aspect of the disorder.
Head Size and Autism
Let’s first define some of the basics about a person’s head size. A head size is measured by the circumference of the head, also known as the head circumference (HC).
Macrocephaly refers to a head circumference that is larger than the average for a child’s age and gender.
According to the CDC, the average head circumference for a 3 and a half -year-old child is approximately 16.4 inches for boys and 15.9 inches for girls. A head circumference that is greater than the 98th percentile is considered macrocephaly.
Research has shown that children with autism have a higher rate of macrocephaly compared to typically developing children.
A study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that up to 16.7% of children with autism have macrocephaly, compared to 2-3% of typically developing children.
Another study published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics found that nearly 22% of children with autism had macrocephaly, compared to only 2% of typically developing children.
Possible Causes of Macrocephaly in Autistic Children
The exact cause of macrocephaly in children with autism is not known, but several theories have been proposed.
One theory is that it may be due to abnormal brain growth, such as an increase in the number of neurons or an abnormal distribution of the neurons in the brain.
Another theory is that it may be caused by a genetic mutation that affects brain development.
A study published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics found that children with autism and macrocephaly were more likely to have a genetic mutation that affects brain development.
Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Child Neurology found that children with autism and macrocephaly had a higher rate of brain abnormalities, such as an enlarged ventricular system, which is the fluid-filled spaces in the brain.
If you suspect that your child may have autism, it is important to have the child evaluated by a pediatrician or a specialist in autism. The diagnosis of autism is based on the child’s behavior, communication, and social interaction. A head circumference measurement is also typically taken as part of a routine physical examination.
If the head circumference is larger than the 98th percentile, the pediatrician may refer your child to a neurologist for further evaluation. The neurologist may perform additional tests, such as an MRI, to determine if there are any brain abnormalities that may be causing the macrocephaly.
The management of macrocephaly in children with autism depends on the underlying cause. If the macrocephaly is caused by an abnormal brain growth or a genetic mutation, there is no specific treatment for it.
If the macrocephaly is caused by a brain abnormality, such as hydrocephalus, the neurologist may recommend a shunt surgery to drain the excess cerebrospinal fluid from the brain. This can help to reduce the pressure on the brain and prevent further brain damage.
We hope you found this article about autistic children and Macrocephaly helpful. If you would like to learn more about autism, ABA therapy, or resources available for autistic children check out our blog.