STUDY: Sibling Of A Child With Autism More Likely To Be Diagnosed

CLEBURNE (CBSDFW.COM) – Six-year-old Andy Barrow loves to read, but his older brother Alex would rather play. One thing the two brothers from Cleburne have in common, however, is autism.

“He lost all speech. He just wasn’t there,” said Rachel Barrow about her 8-year-old son Alex.

She said she knew something was different when he was a toddler, but with younger son Andy, it wasn’t as obvious.

“He had language, but he would memorize lines from movies and he would script them word for word,” Barrow said.

A new study in the journal Pediatrics found siblings of a child with autism are 20 percent more likely to get the disorder.

Autism doesn’t just strike randomly. Genetics are thought to play a role, and diagnosis skews heavily toward boys – of the 132 children in the study who had autism, just 29 were girls.

The recurrence risk was previously thought to be between 3 percent and 10 percent, but “previous research was limited by small sample sizes” and bias, the study says.

“There is a very strong genetic component to autism and that’s something people have to keep in mind,” said Dr. Joyce Mauk, President/CEO and Medical Director of The Child Study Center in Fort Worth.

The nonprofit organization helps diagnose and treat children with autism. Mauk says the study is important because spotting the disorder early makes a big difference in a child’s development.

“Any sibling should be monitored carefully and should be screened as recommended by the American Academy Pediatrics at their pediatrician’s office,” Mauk said.

The Barrows wouldn’t change a thing about their family.

The boys have been going to The Child Study Center for treatment. In just six months the two have each reached meaningful milestones, Barrow said.

“Alex went from having one or two words whispered to now talking three to four words at a time. Andy can now have a conversation without scripting,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade what we’ve been through. It sounds crazy, but I wouldn’t not want to have Alex and Andy in our life.”

Parents with children who have autism are encouraged to look for signs in the first few months after birth.

According to the Center for Disease Control, autism may be more likely in a child who doesn’t respond to his or her name; avoids eye contact and wants to be alone; has delayed speech and language skills; and flaps their hands, rocks their body or spins in circles.

The Pediatrics study included 664 children, 132 of whom were diagnosed to have autism. Seventy-eight children had a more mild developmental disorder.


One Comment

  1. Rachel Barrow says:

    Thanks for interviewing families with autism. Not enough can be said about this disease and people need support and help from the outside more than anyone can know. We are all in this and it doesn’t effect just a few of us but effects everyone in many facetts of life. i really wish more could be said of the financial support that is needed by all these families because the one thing that can help (ABA) is the most expensive thing and makes it so out of reach which is heartbreaking for our family and others out there. I encourage channel 11 to do more stories and do more about mentioning the support that is needed for these kids. They are part of our future and without them we all have no future. Thanks again, Rachel Barrow

    1. 2sister says:

      I agree, but would add that we need more stories about children with all kinds of disabilities. I have a loved one who has Down Syndrome. We also need more stories that emphasize their abilities and accomplishments. There are many people out there who just assume that a child who has something like Autism, Down Syndrome, etc. is incapable of learning.

      1. Rachel Barrow says:

        I agree with you on that one. We are all in this together no matter what the disability. We need to raise awareness so that people will understand that these people aren’t as limited as they appear.

  2. Josh says:

    I have Asperger’s myself. My oldest son is a high functioning autistic yet my youngest son has PPCD with a seizure disorder. A lot of people assume it’s a behavior or a parenting issue. This is untrue. My youngest, he used to talk but now he doesn’t. He has all the classic symptoms of Autism where as my oldest has some of the symptoms but has speech associated with social interaction and not just echolalia. So, my two children are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Rachel, when my oldest son wakes up, I’ll ask him if he recognizes your sons because I am pretty sure they would have gone to the same school here in Cleburne. He should get a kick out of that if he knows them, seeing them on here.

    1. Rachel Barrow says:

      God Bless you for your strength in raising your two sons, I know what struggles you have been through and there is nothing easy about it but it is a great learning experience that certainly makes you strong. We have actually homeschooled up to this point so your son probably won’t recognize the boys but that would have been awesome had they gone to school together.

  3. Anonymous says:

    For more information about this great organization and how you can help these families get the treatment their children need go to:

  4. Yessenia medina says:

    Reading this and hearing about this on tv just puts a huge smile on my face! My name is Yessenia Medina, 18 years old and i started my own organization called Be Aware of Autism when I was 15. People need to know about this disorder and what it is because a lot of people do not know about it at all.
    I try and tell as many people as I can about autism, but this is just amazing!!!
    I do alot fundraisers in grand prairie, TX. E mail me if your interested in attending any of our fundraisers! I donate all my money to autism speaks!

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