A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has revealed that parents who have a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a one in five chance of having another autistic child, according to a report by CBC News—a much higher risk than previously believed.
According to the report by CBC:
Researchers followed 664 infants who had at least one older brother or sister with autism. Overall, 132 infants or about 19 per cent ended up with an autism diagnosis, too, by their third birthdays. Previous smaller or less diverse studies reported a prevalence of between 3 per cent and 14 per cent.
“This is the largest study of the siblings of children with autism ever conducted,” said Sally Ozonoff, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute at the University of California (Davis) and the study’s lead author, in a news release. “There is no previous study that identified a risk of recurrence that is this high.”
Despite this new research, the cause of autism remains a mystery to the medical community. According to CBC medical specialist Dr. Karl Kabasele, “We don’t know exactly why it happens or what causes it. At this point, unfortunately, all we have to go on are these population-based studies, in the sense that there is no blood test, no genetic test, there’s no way to tell an individual family what their specific risk is.”
Ozonoff says that the study shows the need for younger siblings of children with ASD to be tracked very carefully, perhaps beyond the “normal” surveillance that one would expect from a pediatrician. “This should include very explicitly and regularly checking in with parents on whether developmental milestones are being reached,” she said.
To learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorders, visit AutismCanada.org.