Autism Research: Risk Higher When Disorder Runs in the Family

[ 0 ] August 8, 2011 |

Autism risk higher for siblings of children already diagnosed with the developmental disorder, study says, providing important genetic insight

Children with older siblings diagnosed with autism are more likely to also have a disorder on the autism spectrum than children who don’t have a history of autism in their family, according to new research from the University of California, Davis’ Mind Institute.

Researchers found that the genetic risk that an infant with an older sibling with autism also will develop the disorder is approximately 19percent, with the risk elevated at 26 percent for male babies, in particular, who have autism in the family; female babies’ risk was only 9 percent. The international study, which will appear in the September issue of the journal, Pediatrics, found that for those babies who have more than one autistic older sibling, their risk jumps to more than 32 percent.

“There is no previous study that identified a risk of recurrence that is this high,” Sally Ozonoff, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the MIND Institute and the study’s lead author. “This points to the important need for closely monitoring and screening siblings so that they can be offered intervention as early as possible. Early intervention ensures the best possible outcomes.”

With the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that one in 110 kids today have some degree of autism, it’s an issue that affects thousands – if not millions – of families in this country.

Ozonoff said the findings are important when it comes to understanding the genetic links and could have family planning and genetic-counseling implications.

“Parents often ask what their risk of having another child with ASD is and, until now, we were really not sure of the answer,” she said.

Visit the Autism Speaks Web site here and learn more about the disorder and early signs. Also, visit Sixty Second Parent for a list of developmental tools doctors may use.

Tell us: Do you have a child or loved one with autism? What has he or she taught you about life and love?

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