McIntyre, while a professor at Syracuse University, and her doctoral student Nicole Quintero studied families chosen in New York. They looked closely at sibling adjustments, involving social, behavioral and academic performance as recorded by both parents and teachers, and at the well- being of the mothers, whose average age was 36 and 94-95 percent of whom were married. The median age of older siblings was seven and most were first- or second-graders.
"Contrary to what has been found by many researchers, we found that older siblings were pretty well adjusted, with no significant differences in parent-reported or teacher-reported social skills," said McIntyre, who joined the UO's department of special education and clinical sciences in 2009. "These are all typically developing kids."
Teachers, however, reported slightly more behavioral problems for the siblings of children with autism than control siblings. "There was a trend toward significance," she said.
The problems resembled hyperactivity but not at levels generally attributed to attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Teacher reports noted that these children exhibited slightly more fidgeting, movement and attention problems.
"Children with siblings with autism may be experiencing some sub-clinical symptoms of hyperactivity or attention problems," noted McIntyre, an affiliate of the UO's Center for Excellence and Developmental Disabilities, Education, Research and Service. "Parents didn't report seeing such things at home. Teachers see these children in a more structured environment. Siblings of children with autism may be at heightened risk for developing problems, potentially over time."
Siblings of children with autism probably should be watched with appropriate academic supports in place, she said. "Our findings are rather positive overall, but these kids should be on our radar screens. These kids may
|Contact: Jim Barlow|
University of Oregon