The Sibling Connection in Autism: Could Subtle Traces Give Us Answers?

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In a recent study led by Dr. John N. Constantino, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, research sought to evaluate the connection between children with ASD and their siblings. More than 1,200 families in the Interactive Autism Network participated and findings of the study indicated that the genes behind autism in one child may contribute to less serious problems in that child’s siblings.

Additionally, the study found that in eleven-percent of families with a child with autism, a second child had also been diagnosed with the disorder, a trend that has been observed by many researchers and clinicians world-wide.

What made this research significant however, was the observance of more subtle trends. The team found that twenty-percent of siblings who did not have autism had been diagnosed with language delay or speech problems early in life. Along with this, about half of those sibling had speech qualities associated with the autism. These problems included lack of intonation, a failure to emphasize important words, or a staccato delivery of sentences.

These traces of behavior and characteristics associated with autism in siblings of children with autism could provide more insight into the development and origin of this disorder itself, and indicates a strong tendency for it to run in families.

While studies are still being done on this topic, the idea that there is a genetic component that is showing itself in a sibling set provides valuable insight and information for researchers to build on. As always, it is important to carefully monitor your child from infancy and seek medical attention at the sign of any problems in development.

This study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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