New research from Aarhus University in Denmark suggests that children with older siblings on the autism spectrum have a seven-fold increased risk of developing the disorder. The study found that siblings with the same parents are most at risk, followed by siblings with the same mother. Meanwhile, paternal half siblings did not demonstrate a significant increased risk.
These new findings confirm the suggested link between genetics and autism, while the maternal connection points toward potential risk factors associated with pregnancy. Since recent studies also recommend that early treatment of autism can have beneficial affects, this new study sheds light on a potential need to do early screening for symptoms amongst younger siblings. It also suggests that mothers can take extra precautions while pregnant.
These findings offer valuable insight on the link between genetics, pregnancy and autism, and provide further impetus for researchers to develop tests that detect genetic risk factors leading to autism.