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Developmental Risks in Autism Siblings Tied to Family History

A recent study conducted by researchers at Yale School of Medicine has found that younger siblings of children with autism are at a higher risk of developmental difficulties. This risk is heightened if there are relatives with conditions such as delayed speech, anxiety, or schizophrenia. The findings, published in the journal Autism Research, highlight the importance of family history in predicting developmental outcomes.

Increased Social Communication Challenges

The study revealed that younger siblings of children with autism exhibit more severe difficulties in social communication, a common symptom of autism. Other symptoms in these children could include repetitive behaviours and heightened sensory sensitivities.

Research Details

Researchers assessed 229 children, each with at least one older sibling diagnosed with autism. These children, with an average age of two years, were enrolled in the study between March 2006 and May 2022. The researchers evaluated their social, cognitive, language and adaptive skills.

Importance of Family History

Parents of the 229 children provided detailed family histories. The study investigated the presence of neurodevelopmental conditions like delayed speech requiring therapy and intellectual disabilities, as well as psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Statistical Findings

The researchers found both neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders among the immediate and extended family members of children with autism. The most frequently reported neurodevelopmental condition was speech delay requiring therapy (64%), followed by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (41%) and intellectual disability (11%). Among neuropsychiatric disorders, the most common were anxiety disorders (44%), depression (43%), bipolar disorder (17%) and schizophrenia (8%).


Senior author Katarzyna Chawarska, a child psychiatry professor at Yale, stressed the importance of family history in predicting long-term outcomes for younger siblings of autistic children. This knowledge can guide parents and paediatricians in monitoring and supporting at-risk infants.

Future Research Directions

Chawarska noted that future studies could further explore the biological mechanisms behind how family history influences the development of younger siblings of children with autism. This Study could enhance early intervention strategies and improve developmental outcomes for these children.

Source: Inputs from various media Sources 

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Priya Bairagi

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