A PsychCentral article written by Dr. Rick Nauert reports on a study by Kaiser Permanente that found that the risk of younger siblings developing an autism spectrum disorder is 14 times higher if an older sibling has ASD. It said:
“Compared with gestational age-matched younger siblings without ASD diagnosis, those born at term (37-42 gestational weeks) who had an older sibling diagnosed with ASD had more than 15 times the increased risk for ASD diagnosis. Younger siblings who were born at preterm (28-36 gestational weeks) and had an older sibling diagnosed with ASD had an almost 10 times increased risk for ASD.
Younger boys with ASD who had older brothers were 15 percent chance of having ASD, while younger girls with older sisters have a 7 percent chance.
Previous research from Kaiser Permanente has found that second-born children who are conceived sooner than two years or later than six years after the arrival of their older sibling have a significantly increased risk of ASD.”
NPR reported on a study conducted by UCDavis Mind Institute. They found that “the overall risk that a younger sibling of an autistic child will have the disorder is 19 percent. But if the younger sibling is male, the risk shoots up to more than one in four. By contrast, if the younger sibling is a girl, her risk of autism is 9 percent. And if a family has two or more children with autism, the risk among younger siblings goes up even more — to 1 in 3.”
Should you be concerned? This certainly shouldn’t panic you. We have to be careful how studies are interpreted. Genetics certainly play a role in the risk for autism, but it’s not the only factor. Environmental factors, such as extremely low birth weight, extremely premature birth, and exposure to toxins must also be considered.
To be safe, parents who have an older child with an autism diagnosis and their pediatricians should be on the look out for early signs of autism – lack of interest in people, not responding to their names, not responding to people or smiling at them.
There’s no guarantee that any child will be born without serious health problems. The issue is how you will handle the challenge if your child does suffer a birth defect or has a mental disorder. My advice is not to worry excessively, but if you see indications that your child is not responding as he or she should be, seek the advice of a professional who is trained in diagnosing such disorders. Working closely with your child’s pediatrician, these professionals will be able to assess the situation, educate you on what the diagnosis means and help you and your child to cope as a family.
Are you looking for guidance regarding your relationship with a family member with Asperger Syndrome? For further Autism Spectrum Disorder resources see Remote Education Asperger Relationships.