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    Researchers investigate siblings of autism children

    A research project being carried out by the universities of Leuven and Ghent is looking for newborns who have a sibling diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), to look into ways of diagnosing the condition earlier.

    The siblings of autistic children are known to have a higher risk of ASD than the average child, but as the disorder has an important element of social interaction and communication, it cannot be detected in babies until they reach a later stage of development, after the age of three years and often even later than that.

    The Leuven-Ghent project aims to look at autism siblings to examine if they show detectable signs of what could later turn out to be signposts of ASD.

    An earlier diagnosis could help the family of such siblings, said Professor Ilse Noens of KULeuven. “At the moment it’s not possible to provide timely support for the family, and that leads to a great deal of uncertainty among parents and children themselves. That can lead to associated problems, such as behavioural problems or psychological complaints, and that’s what we want to avoid.”

    The two universities want to study the siblings of ASD children in order to establish a screening and diagnostic protocol that can later be used by paediatricians and family organisations like Kind & Gezin in Flanders. At the outset, the team is looking for babies under the age of five months who have a siblings diagnosed with ASD. The children will be examined from time to time over a period of about three years.

    Further information at the project website.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times