Infants with Siblings on the Autism Spectrum are more Likely to Repeat Tasks, Student Finds

The fact that, as of 2012, the prevalence of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) had increased from 1 in 150 children to 1 in 68, according to the CDC, is alarming. In response to that, BYU’s Family, Home, and Social Sciences college has sponsored a variety of programs, research, and events meant to cast more light on the effects of the disorder and on better treatments, some of which we discussed here, in our last issue of Connections. Perhaps of equal concern, though, is that some research demonstrates a possible connection between children who have a sibling with ASD and a higher risk of being diagnosed with the disorder.

BYU Psychology student and Fulton Conference participant Katherine Christensen, under the guidance of Dr. Rebecca Lundwall, found that “infant siblings of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder have higher perseveration,” meaning that these infants tended to redundantly or insistently repeat tasks more than infants who didn’t have siblings with ASD. The implications of this study for earlier diagnosis and intervention are big, says Katherine: “I hope that in the future, the computer task that we used in the current study could be used as a screening device that could discriminate between high- and low-risk populations for ASD. If the computer task is able to do so, it could potentially help with earlier diagnosis and intervention for children with a higher risk for developing attentional disorders. Earlier treatment allows for a better prognosis.”

Fulton_Psych
Katherine Christensen’s Fulton poster

 

Katherine’s Connection

What made Katherine want to study ASD? In her own words, “I have grown up with a sister with developmental disabilities, and so the topic was interesting to me given my experience growing up with her.”

The Fulton Conference

Of her experience with the Fulton Conference, a college-wide event held every April highlighting students’ research projects, Katherine said: “I had a great time at the Fulton Conference. I am so grateful to be given the opportunity to get experience researching and presenting research in an open and friendly environment. I thank Dr. Lundwall for allowing me to be on her team and trusting me to present her research. It was neat to be able to see some of the other research in the FHSS school disciplines. I liked walking around and seeing and hearing from other students who are involved in research with other professors!”

Helping Families with ASD

In their 2005 book Helping and Healing our Families, professors Karen W. Hahne and Tina Taylor Dyches suggest the following, for those not affected by ASD who want to help those who are:

  • Offer respite care to families who are unable to attend church.
  • Provide transportation to church, activities, or other functions.
  • Ask parents of children with disabilities and service providers to give in-service training to auxiliary and priesthood leaders
  • Set high, rather than low, expectations for children with disabilities.
  • Express your love for the family, even if you cannot empathize fully.
  • Listen to parents’ concerns without judging their parenting skills.

How have you helped families affected by ASD?

Black and white feature image courtesy of Flickr.

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