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Risk of Autism Recurrence Higher Than Thought

Study Finds About 19% Risk of Autism in Younger Siblings of Children With the Disorder

Autism Sibling Risk: Perspective continued...

The design of the study, which followed the infants forward, ensures more accuracy than looking backward, she says. "The fact that they could look ahead meant they could be certain about how the diagnoses were obtained." The group included children from 12 locations and was ethnically diverse. Both of these factors reduce bias.

"Families need to know this is an estimate," she says. "It doesn't reflect what will happen to an individual family."

"This new study provides a more definitive estimate of the recurrence of autism in younger siblings," says Alycia Halladay, PhD, director for environmental research for Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks supports the Baby Siblings Research Consortium. Autism Speaks, the National Institutes of Health, and other organizations supported the study.

For parents who have an older child with autism, the new information should motivate them to be sure the younger child has close monitoring, she says. That should be done as early as six months, she tells WebMD.

Genetic counselors can use the information to help parents interpret the findings, says Karin Dent, president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

"The updated data from this study ... should be incorporated in genetic counseling sessions with parents and families of affected individuals," she says.

"This will help families to have a number on something that is difficult to assess."

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