If you have a child who has been diagnosed with autism, you might wonder if their younger siblings may also be “on the spectrum”. This isn’t an idle worry. The genetic markers for autism have not been fully mapped. However, researchers have already identified 55 gene variants that are linked to the disorder. This is definitely something that can run in families. If you have one child with autism, the chances of a younger sibling having similar issues may be as high as one in five.
New Tests May Find Problems Sooner
Psychiatrists and neurologists know that early diagnosis and intervention greatly improve an autistic child’s coping skills and behavioral responses. That’s why they have been working hard to find ways to pick up on subtle cues of autistic tendencies in younger and younger children. Two recent studies are exploring technology that may help identify autism markers even in infants under a year old.
In one University of North Carolina study, children were given the opportunity to stare at objects on a computer screen. A camera tracked eye movement as the image moved on the screen. The families were followed up with over time to see whether the younger siblings developed autistic patterns. Those who had slower vision responses to moving images were most likely to end up being diagnosed with autism.
In a related study, researchers used “diffusion tensor imaging” MIR technology to see how water moved through connective tissue at 15 different points within the brain. 12 of these 15 connections between brain regions were different in siblings who ended up with autism versus siblings who were “neurotypical”. These differences were sometimes detectable as early as six months.
More Research Will Provide Clearer Answers
It is important to understand that these research studies will need to be expanded and repeated to draw further conclusions. These tests alone do not indicate a diagnosis of autism at this time. However, they give families an extra early warning to be on the lookout for signs of the disorder so they can seek evaluation as their child develops.
If one or more of your children have been diagnosed with autism at a medical center in Dallas, you will need to ensure they have regular therapy. Dr. Tucker is one of the experts who can help. Click here to learn more.