Siblings of children with autism are at a higher risk of also having the disorder than previously thought. Researchers at the Mind Institute at the University of California, Davis have found that siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder have a 1 in 5 chance of also being autistic, when previous statistics said there was a 1 in 10 chance of the sibling having the disorder.

The latest research came from the largest study to date on the risk of autism among siblings. Published in the journal Pediatrics and supported by Autism Speaks and the National Institutes of Health, the research followed 664 eight month-old infants, who had siblings with ASD, until they reached 36 months. Nineteen percent of the siblings were diagnosed with the disorder, which puts siblings of children with autism at a 20 times greater risk of developing ASD than the general population.

Keeping families and patients informed and aware of emerging research like this is important. Researchers urge families who have children with autism and are considering having more children to prepare to watch younger siblings more closely as they develop. Potential signs of autism can display even in infancy. On their website, Autism Speaks has a list of signals for parents to look out for as early as three or four months. Some of the potential signs include a lack of smiling at six months or an absence of gestures like pointing, waving, or babbling, at 12 months. Early detection, diagnosis, and intervention have been shown to positively improve the effects of the disorder in a child’s behavior.

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