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A possible early glimpse of autism's impact on older siblings
Date:3/8/2010

A new study suggests a trend toward developing hyperactivity among typically developing elementary-school-aged siblings of autistic preschoolers and supports the notion that mothers of young, autistic children experience more depression and stress than mothers with typically developing children.

While the impact on older siblings was not statistically significant, the trend may indicate the presence of symptoms associated with broader observable autism characteristics seen in previous studies, says Laura Lee McIntyre, a professor and director of the University of Oregon's school psychology program. The study was published in the March issue of the journal Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.

Previous research projects have netted mixed findings, but many suggest that families dealing with autism -- especially brothers and sisters of an autistic child -- also experience symptoms similar to autism: widespread abnormalities of social interactions, communication and behavior.

The new study gives a fresh look at autism's early effects on families by comparing control and experimental groups whose ages, education and socioeconomic situations were virtually identical. Twenty families had a preschooler (ages 2-5 years old) diagnosed with autism and a typically developing older elementary school sibling (6-10); the control group of 23 families did not have an autistic child. Older children with diagnosed learning or mental disabilities were excluded.

"We know there are risk factors, but we don't know if they result from having a child with autism, or if there are genetic predispositions as part of the broader autism picture," McIntyre said. "Are these difficulties the result of child-rearing challenges, or are they negatively impacted because of shared genetic risks? Our sample was very clean, and that's good for science but not necessarily as good for generalizing our findings, but I'm confident with the r
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Contact: Jim Barlow
jebarlow@uoregon.edu
541-684-6938
University of Oregon
Source:Eurekalert  

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