Research has indicated that certain children may be at a higher risk for developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than others. One such group is siblings of children with ASD. By detecting the signs and symptoms of ASD early, diagnosis and subsequent treatment and intervention can begin earlier. The High Risk Baby Siblings Research Consortium, established in 2003, brings together research groups in order to find the very earliest symptoms of ASD.
Working together, the group of 23 scientists from the US, Canada, and Israel are researching markers, both behavioral and biomedical, that indicate ASD. The earlier the markers are isolated, the earlier treatment for autism can begin. The researchers are not only working toward the goal of early identification, but also toward the development of treatments to prevent symptom development.
Because siblings of children with ASD are at a risk for ASD that is possibly as high as 10 times greater than that of the general population, studying siblings of autistic children presents a unique opportunity for researchers to identify autism very early in a child’s life. The research into the underlying mechanics of autism also affects clinical practices for children diagnosed with ASD.
Research is ongoing; new studies are planned to investigate environmental and genetic risk factors as related to autism, and a study of more than 1500 infant siblings of children with ASD is planned.
Results of this ongoing research will shed light on both risk factors connected to developing ASD as well as underlying causes of autism. While no one cause has been identified, the more research that is done, the closer we are to identifying causes and to developing new treatments that will ensure a positive outcome for children with ASD.