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UC Davis study may offer hope for families dealing with autism

There has been at least one study that suggests that living near a child with autism may lead to an increase in autism diagnoses in neighboring children.

It's not that the other children somehow caught the disorder. Autism isn't contagious. What the researchers concluded is that parents living near the autistic child became more adept at spotting possible autism-related behavioral issues in their children, prompting the parents to get necessary checks.

A study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, published recently in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry seems to build on those findings. 

The study found that younger siblings of autistic children may show signs of atypical development and behavioral issues very early on in their lives.

To conduct the study, researchers did development assessments on more than 400 infants at regular intervals. They were started when the children were 6 months old and ran until they were 36 months old. Three-hundred of the subjects were the younger siblings of children with autism. The others were younger siblings of children without autism diagnoses.

Nearly half of the siblings of autistic children were found to have possible issues. Seventeen percent of them eventually received autism diagnoses. Another 28 percent were found to suffer from developmental or behavioral delays of various kinds.

The authors of the study say the best news from the study is that it shows possible issues can be detected early. They say the findings suggest that parents and doctors should be more proactive about assessing younger siblings of autistic children so that appropriate treatments or interventions can be started earlier.

It must be remembered that autism is an umbrella term for a range of possible mental disorders. In the most severe of cases, a child may be deemed disabled and be eligible for Supplemental Security Income support. An experienced attorney can help present the best case for benefits, where one exists.

Source: KFDA-TV, "Younger siblings of kids with autism may show early signs of problems," HealthDay News, March 7, 2014

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