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Recurrence risk of autism in younger siblings higher than thought
Date:8/14/2011

be less than 18 percent. At the present time, unfortunately, we do not know how to estimate an individual family's actual risk," Ozonoff said.

Ozonoff said that the study's large size, prospective design, the young age of study participants at enrollment and the gold-standard direct assessment methods used, as well as the geographic diversity of participants, reinforce the accuracy of its findings. The study design also minimized the effects of other factors such as "stoppage," the tendency of families with a child with autism to stop having children, which would lead to an underestimate of potential recurrence rates. The study accounted for stoppage by studying only families with later-born siblings.

She said that the study has significant 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.

The study also highlights the critical importance of routine surveillance and rapid referral for treatment of infant siblings of children with autism. Ozonoff said that it is of paramount importance that primary care professionals monitor these children's development closely and refer them for early intervention immediately when concerns arise.

In practice guidelines published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2007, being a younger sibling of a child with autism is considered a risk factor requiring special developmental evaluation and the current investigation supported that recommendation.

"This study shows that the younger siblings of children with autism spectrum disorders need to be tracked very carefully, and this may require more than the normal surveillance that a pediatrician might typically do," Ozonoff said. "This should include very explicitly and regularly checking in with parents on whether developmental milestones are being reached."


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Contact: Phyllis Brown
phyllis.brown@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9023
University of California - Davis Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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