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Risk of Autism Among Younger Siblings of a Child with Autism

Author: Autism Speaks(i) : Contact: autismspeaks.org

Published: 2011-08-15 : (Rev. 2020-07-26)

Synopsis and Key Points:

The risk of autism among younger siblings of a child with autism is greater with risk for boys greater than for girls, and risk is over 32% if the infant has more than one sibling with autism.

Study found risk of ASD diagnosis for male infants who had an older sibling with ASD was almost 3 times greater than the risk for female infants.

If there were two children with ASD in the family, the risk of the third sibling developing ASD increased to more than 32 percent.

Main Digest

Autism Speaks, the world's largest autism science and advocacy organization, joined in announcing significant findings from the largest known study of younger siblings of children who had a verified diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This study, based on data from the Autism Speaks High Risk Baby Siblings Research Consortium (BSRC) and led by investigators from the UC Davis MIND Institute, was published online in the journal Pediatrics.

The "Recurrence Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study" found:

"By pulling together data from many investigators who are studying infant siblings of children with autism, these results offer a more accurate estimate of the recurrence rate for autism in siblings," says Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. "Surprisingly, the rate is much higher than previous estimates. This points to the important need for closely monitoring and screening siblings so that they can be offered intervention as early as possible to ensure the best possible outcome."

The study involved 664 infants from 12 U.S. and Canadian sites, evaluated as early as 6 months of age and followed until age 36 months. This study used gold standard diagnostic methods and comprehensive assessments by expert researchers, compared to prior studies based on more narrow diagnostic criteria.

"It has been well established that siblings of children with ASD are at higher risk for developing the disorder, but our estimates of the recurrence rate had been based on much smaller samples," explained Autism Speaks Director of Research for Environmental Sciences Alycia Halladay, Ph.D. who oversees the BSRC. "These findings emphasize the importance of family history as an autism risk factor that requires attention by parents and clinicians in tracking these infants from an early age to determine if the younger sibling develops ASD or a development disorder."

"It's important to recognize that these are estimates that are averaged across all of the families. So, for some families, the risk will be greater than 18.7 percent, and for other families it would be less than 18.7 percent," said Sally Ozonoff, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the MIND Institute and the study's lead author. "At the present time, unfortunately, we do not know how to estimate an individual family's actual risk."

The High Risk Baby Siblings Research Consortium, now engaging 25 scientists at 21 institutions in the U.S., Canada, Israel and the UK, is a partnership between Autism Speaks and the National Institutes of Health, led by the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. Autism Speaks began funding baby sibling research in 1997 and has since committed over $7 million to this project, both in scientific research and programmatic activities. Autism Speaks also provided funding to authors Ozonoff and Young for this study.

Families who have concerns about their infant's development, who also has one or more older children with autism can contact their nearest Baby Siblings Research Consortium researcher about participating in continuing research efforts.

Autism Risk in Siblings of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders - Researchers have identified 57 single nucleotide polymorphisms that predict risk siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will develop the condition.

(i)Source/Reference: Autism Speaks. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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