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 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 risk for ASD that is possibly as high as ten 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.
Once an autism evaluation has confirmed that your child is affected by a spectrum disorder, you should look to learn as much as you can about treatment options. Since early intervention is crucial to a positive outcome, becoming an educated advocate for your child’s care is very important.
By the time a developmental screening has led to an autism evaluation, you likely will have learned a great deal about autism spectrum disorders and will know that treatment is the next step.
While it is important to know the symptoms and the factors that increase the risk of autism, now is the time to become educated on treatment options and how your child’s treatments will be carried out.
Start by asking the team of professionals who evaluated and diagnosed your child to explain to you where he or she is on the autism spectrum. You may not get as straightforward an answer as you would like because each child’s autism disorder is unique.
No two children with the same diagnosis will have the same symptoms, so finding out what aspect of the diagnosis is specific to your child is important. Your child’s treatments should be individualized to his or her needs.
Research into effective treatments in ongoing, so find out whether your child can receive the most up-to-date treatment options. Treatments are tailored to specific delays and are designed to be appropriate to your child’s chronological and developmental age. Find out what types of treatments your child can expect to receive now and which of those will be ongoing.
Check With Your Insurance
As a matter of practicality, check with your health insurance company to determine how treatments will be covered. Inquire about services in your community to determine what services, if any, you can receive at a reduced cost.
Someone from the team who evaluated your child should be able to provide materials to your child’s school that can help you establish an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for him or her.
Your child will likely receive a number of therapies simultaneously: speech, behavioral, and occupational therapy, for instance, will become a regular part of your routine. There may be pharmacological or dietary treatments as well, depending on your child’s symptoms.
Talk To Your Family
You will likely receive a great deal of information about how you can incorporate elements of treatment into your home routines, so expect some changes in the way your household runs. Inform your family members of how they can help your child’s therapy to extend beyond office visits.
Expect to work through a lot of emotions once you receive a diagnosis of autism. Certainly, you may feel overwhelmed, confused, disappointed, guilty for being disappointed, anxious, or some combination of all of these and more.
However, remember that getting an autism diagnosis is a positive step toward treatment. Autism is not curable, but early and effective treatment and intervention can make a tremendous difference in the life of a child with autism.