Siblings of kids with autism have language delays
October 8th, 2010
06:10 PM ET

Siblings of kids with autism have language delays

In families in which a child has autism, his or her siblings are more likely to have language delays or speech problems, a new study finds.

The study, to be published in the November issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that these siblings have mild symptoms of autism, and that the same genes that contribute to one sibling's full-blown autism may be at fault.

Researchers looked at data from nearly 3,000 children in the United States from more than 1,200 families. These families are in the Interactive Autism Network, a web-based tool to help advance autism research through sharing information.

They found that 20 percent of siblings had some kind of language delay or speech problems early in life, and half of those children had problems that were autistic in nature. Speech patterns characteristic of autism include pronoun reversal - switching "you" and "I," for instance - and invented words.

These siblings also tended to have social abnormalities associated with autism, the authors found. Families with more than one autistic child were more likely to have an additional child with mild autistic symptoms.

This suggests that many children who do not have an autism diagnosis are still affected by the condition, even if only in a mild way, study authors said. In the general population, about 7 percent of children receive a diagnosis of a speech or language disorder, said lead author Dr. John Constantino of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Many of these children will outgrow or get training to overcome their language problems and have little trace of those abnormalities later in life, Constantino said. But they may provide clues into the mechanism of inheritance of autism in some families.

Further research may reveal what distinguishes children who show this susceptibility to autism but who have been spared the full extent of the condition, he said. This could provide clues into offsetting the disease.

Family history isn't everything, however. There are some families for whom there is no clear inheritance of autism, and no other children seem to have a trace of the disorder, Constantino noted.

Another avenue to explore is the gender ratio in autism. About four boys are thought to have the condition for every one girl with it, but Constantino's study found a ratio of three boys to two girls when including these milder traits. That means that there may be additional girls who benefit from the same kinds of social, psychological, and educational interventions for autism that are more commonly given to boys, Constantino said.

As researchers learn more about the nature of autism, new genetic links become clear as more evidence emerges against a link to vaccines.

soundoff (220 Responses)
  1. John B.

    LKJ, allowing your immune system to develop "naturally" means giving your kids a chance to get measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, Deadly diarrhea, cancer etc. People don't vaccinate bc they don't see what they are preventing. And if more people do what you did, more people will begin to have these serious problems again. And it won't be their faults, it will be their ignorant parents (who presumed they were educated bc of some Internet website) fault. Why do you think doctors back vaccines? They don't get kickbacks, they just know what preventative medicine is. Oh, and autoimmune conditions have what are knows as "usual age of onset." meaning it's not caused by something you did before, like eating chicken, sky diving for the first time, drinking water, or getting vaccinated. Claiming causation is always easy but rarely right.

    And for those who don't know what the Cochran review is, look it up. This isn't some doctor in his basement. Remember that the vaccine – autism link was based on TWELVE kids which was later WITHDRAWN bc the data had flaws. It has never been reproduced. But parents of autistic kids look for a cause bc it helps them cope and vaccines are easy to point to. Maybe a little harsh, but correct.

    October 10, 2010 at 03:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • questionauthority

      I will take my chances with the "deadly" diseases John. By the way Vaccines have "deadly" consequences. Did you mention that?

      October 10, 2010 at 10:12 | Report abuse |
    • DocSoup

      ?: prior to 2001 when a worldwide effort to vaccinate was started, approximately 750,000 children died each year from measles and complications from the measles. Thanks to millions of vaccines, that number has been cut 90%. If you can find a confirmed case of death from any of the currently used childhood vaccines please let us know, because I have never seen nor heard of that from anywhere in the world.

      October 10, 2010 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
  2. John B.

    MM – in those countries, there aren't near enough physicians to diagnose a psych condition like that. And there could easily be an increase in any "autism set of genes" in the population here but not in another country. The idea you have it what caused people to put HUNDREDS of thousands of hours into this Cochran study to come up with this conclusion

    October 10, 2010 at 03:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Tanya

    I knew that my oldest daughter was autistic before anyone would listen to me. She was 8 months old when she started the rocking back and forth and covering her ears to "hide" from anything she didn't like or that was too loud for her. My youngest daughter is starting to show the signs and nobody wants to listen to me about her. They claim that it's just "learned behavior" from watching her sister. Her sister is in school and doesn't do things nearly as bad as she does. I have Early Intervention coming in to see her for therapy and her therapist doesn't feel the need for an evaluation so I can't get one unless I get the pediatrician to give me a referal and she refused to give me a referal for the oldest daughter because "she wants eye to eye contact so she can't POSSIBLY be Autistic because Autistic children don't like that eye to eye contact." She was wrong about my oldest and now she's wrong about my youngest ( I have 4 older boys in addition to the 2 girls and all references in here are based on the girls). I think we should be able to get our children evaluated WITHOUT a referal. Parents know there children and parents are usually correct when they think something is wrong with their child. Not to mention, AUTISM RESEARCH doesn't get nearly enough FUNDING for the research that is needed. More people are diagnosed with Autism than is diagnosed with pediatric aids and pediatric cancer every year. 1 in 110 are diagnosed with Autism.

    October 10, 2010 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jen

      Check with your local school district. You don't need a referral if you contact the school district (at least not in my state). You simply say you want an evaluation and they have to give you one. Your tax dollars are what pay for the services. We called our local school district when my son was 2 and was still not talking. He received twice weekly in-home speech therapy visits until he turned 3 and now he's in preschool (in our school district) and receiving speech therapy in the classroom as well. He is believed to be on the spectrum (very high functioning) but has issues with social communication even though he now speaks and speaks well. In my state, they HAVE TO give you an early childhood intervention evaluation if you go through the public school district. Check there before you check privately. If you want a private evaluation, find a different pediatrician. My son had good eye to eye contact too (with people he knew well and with his doctor) so it sounds like you need a new doctor. Eye contact is not the only symptom that is used to exclusively rule out autism and it's dangerous that pediatricians are passing that information on to parents. Always, ALWAYS, get second and third opinions if you feel the need.

      October 10, 2010 at 08:44 | Report abuse |
  4. Lisa

    Last paragraph.
    As researchers learn more about the nature of autism, new genetic links become clear as more evidence emerges against a link to vaccines.
    This is over. Thanks dye job PlayBoy cover loser for crying this is a vaccine issue!!!!

    October 10, 2010 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Dwight Huth

    I think Autism as well as Bi-Polar are results of humans being conditioned to be quick and fast in everything that a human does so that they can be first and get there first in order to survive. If you slow down and use specific wording instead of generalized words such as "it", or other non-named words to describe your environment people will understand you better as well you being able to grab their attention longer by making the conversation more interesting by using named objects instead of generalized entrapment words be specific and colorful in your description's. By doing YOU will build new pathway's in the brain that will slowly choke off the Bi-polar an austic parts of the brain that would then be rebuilt over.

    October 10, 2010 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. questionauthority

    Im not sure why most cannot see the forest through the trees. There is a genetic link to everything. However thats only one side of the coin. Its how your genetics respond to your environment that makes the differnce. Not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic or who smokes has cancer. If you do then your chances increase. We can all agree on that right. Whay is autism any different. By the way autism is a collection of symptoms. The diagnosis is misleading. My son is 6 and has autism he was vaccinated. My daughter shes 4 does not have autism and was not vaccinated and for the record she can talk circles around 5 and 6 yo neuro typical kids. Get this (this is documented and tested) you can take 100 people who have been exposed to mercury via an industrial accident and compare them to 100 autistic children and their symptoms are identical. Thats riight you cant tell them apart. Naysayers.... smell the coffee.

    October 10, 2010 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Doug

      Actually, although some of the symptoms of autism overlap with mercury poisoning, other symptoms are quite different. A doctor would have absolutely no difficulty telling the two apart.

      October 10, 2010 at 12:53 | Report abuse |
    • John B.

      the symptoms are different... and mercury is not used invaccines. A chemical derived from mercury WAS used, and no longer is. Yesterday i wore a red shirt and it rained and today i wore a blue shirt and it didnt. Therefore, wearing red shirts causes rain. See how that doesnt work. just because your two kids have autism/dont and were vaccinated/werent doesnt mean causation. If you understood law/medicine, you'd get why this doesnt work. There is a reason for a cochran review and not just stories like yours. It is a horrible thing that some kids have autism, i wish we had a cure/knew a cause, but we know what it isnt, vaccination. And as far as your last post, vaccines can VERY rarely have some consequences to a VERY select few people. the average lifespan for adults was 35 before modern medicine. Do the math. Its not about your kids or mine, its about the population. Scientists arent stupid. millions are spent on this research to find the truth, not to intentionally give anyone's children autism.

      October 10, 2010 at 18:03 | Report abuse |
  7. Susan Lahaie,, NP

    PLEASE look at the connection between Vitamin D insufficiency and autism. A simple and inexpensive vitamin supplement can make a big difference in both prevention and treatment of autism. Check out the research and get more information on the website http://www.vitaminDcouncil.org Susan Lahaie, Nurse Practitioner.

    October 10, 2010 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • questionauthority

      Chicken or the egg. Very strong evidence tho.

      October 10, 2010 at 10:45 | Report abuse |
  8. Ninja Grandma

    Many of you are probably too young to remember the flower generation, but perhaps we are now realizing the results of their "seed". Many in that generation used drugs such as marijuana and hallucinogens such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline to explore alternative states of consciousness. There is no simple explanation for autism. However, researchers know that genes play a role in autism. If you look at yourself in your genealogy mirror, do you see flowers?

    October 10, 2010 at 11:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. AM

    HermanC – Just SHUT UP. Your ignorance is palpable. Your vaccine claims are disproven. What evidence DO you want? If evidence from peer-reviewed journals is not sufficient, what WOULD be sufficient to you. The answer is NOTHING, since you will never, ever believe anything different. You are RIDICULOUS. And your conspiracy theories are flat out annoying.

    October 10, 2010 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DocSoup

      Thank You!!!

      October 10, 2010 at 15:01 | Report abuse |
  10. Brainwashing Machine

    Please listen my fellow comrades, do what the government tells you. Ok comrade you make nice, take your shots. Big company pay lots of money to politicians to get your tax dollars, you no take shot big trouble, look like government waste money,.

    New regulations coming soon you must buy new T.V. from state sponsored company. OK it's the law comrade. You have the freedom to give us part of your wages comrade, don't make trouble, be good little sheep.

    New T.V. good for you, better for your eyes, it make you more healthy, comrades we have study to say so. if you not buy you considered bad citizen. You don't want to be bad citizen, you listen we know what good for you comrades.

    Now be good citizen new law coming from government where we keep record of all blogs made on internet comrades.

    October 10, 2010 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mark

    i dont think this study is conclusive at all //

    October 10, 2010 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DocSoup

      It's not supposed to be conclusive of anything. It is just another piece in the puzzle showing that research is heading in the right direction after so much wasted money on the wild goose chase that was vaccines.

      October 10, 2010 at 15:04 | Report abuse |
  12. Kim

    I'll except any vacine that is for non-profit. Some of the best discoveries scientests gave away for free back in the old days.
    They were happy for the satisfaction of helping people and children.

    You add a profit margin and if it is big enough, buyer be ware!

    October 10, 2010 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. DocSoup

    For everyone who wants a good background and a good laugh, search two topics:

    1. The Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, it is a cartoon, but well done and the facts are well researched and indisputable.

    2. Penn and Teller – Vaccines. Crude language, but very funny and accurate.

    October 10, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. mom of a late talker

    I'm not even looking at this article from the vaccine perspective but from the incorrect view it has on language delay is related
    to autism. Too much time has passed where the autism numbers information seems to be taken as fact when no one seems to question where the numbers come from. I'm live in California so I speak from my experience dealing with labels and numbers where I live. Does anyone know that a child can be labeled autistic-like and just exhibit three "like-behaviors" and not even be
    autistic and receive an autism label for services through a school district and it is called an educational label. These numbers are the numbers out there of how much autism is out there and it's false information. The law needs to be corrected to represent children correctly. A child may have language delay but that does not mean they are on the autism spectrum. No one seems to recall the DSM-IV criteria for autism and they seem to go along with this educational labeling and labeling I might add being done by those who are evaluating using evaluations to suit their needs for labeling a child for educational purposes for funding. So now a parent gets an incorrect label for their child because they are told that is what is available and they don't have other options so they take it but doing so a parent doesn't realize they have to be careful with what services their child is receiving and that it doesn't hinder language progression. And incorrectly labeling a child takes away from those children truly autistic who truly need correct services. Please be aware the system needs to be corrected and please do not accept from a school district from those evaluating your language delayed child that they are the know it alls and know what is going on with your language delayed child. Please get reputable, correct evaluations so your time isn't wasted and your child's time isn't wasted.

    October 10, 2010 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Laurie

    Hello all – Regarding the prevalence of autism, I believe it is caused by the extreme toxicity of the world in which we all live. It has been shown in numerous studies that significant levels of toxic chemicals exist in the fetal cord blood. Pair that with the known fact that paternal health/toxicity also can impact any offspring (think of the "agent orange" cases after vietnam war), and then multiply that by several generations of "better living through chemistry" and you reach a point where we as a species cannot bear healthy offspring. My personal view on autism at this point, is that we are all SO toxic, that when we have our children, some are born with as much toxins as they can tolerate and have autism "from birth." For others, it is a later onset, and is triggered by something – eating processed foods (which contain LOADS of chemicals, known as "food additives") or by vaccines. Are vaccines the "cause"? I don't necessarily think so, but are they a "trigger"? I DO believe so... I think that for some individuals, they are so toxic that the vaccine is just that "one extra thing" – the proverbial straw that breaks the camels back – and the body simply can't deal with or process it as it should because the levels of toxicity present is past that persons tolerance. We as a society need to look at the toxicity of our world for our own health as well... the numbers of people with all sorts of chronic conditions – fibromyalgia, lupis, IBS, Chrone's, high cholesterol, GERD/acid reflux, persistent sleep issues, mild depressions, etc. all evidence a growing preponderance of toxicity in each of us individually. We as a society are NOT healthy – the list chronic conditions are growing, and our health individually and as a society is failing rapidly. We all need to start paying attention to what is happening around us – the "autism epidemic" is merely the first wave... more is coming...
    Laurie – mom of 2 (1 ASD child and 1 Food allergic child )

    October 10, 2010 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Bill

    Good point from mom of a late talker, I can see lots of law suits coming, these children will grow up with a label that was only fabricated by the medical industry for the sole purpose of a cover up.

    Then a whole new generation won't believe anything from the medial establishment. I can here it now "remember mom when the told me I was autistic, but I am fully functional now, while the real cases of children of Autism will have to be taking care of by their families for life.. Remember John Travolta child who pasted on sadly, that child was never going to be able to function in society, as with all children with real Autism they don't have the verbal skills.

    The lie is always worse! I do believe they have fixed the shots, when the government discovered the problem, the rest is collertial damage sadly.

    The cover up will cause the vaccine makers billions that's why last year they bypassed the private sector buying their product and got our government to pay billions to them with our tax dollars, we had no say.

    October 10, 2010 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. kenforme

    I feel for all the stories out there with my whole heart. But each individual story is staatistically invalid regardless of results. It will be large population studies that will lead to the answers and not for many years. Please do not hate parents for not vaccinating or vaccinating. There are not the right studies to determine if vaccines trigger the genetic predisposition. The variables are numerous. What is in it? How does it effect each individual? Timelines? Mass volumes over short times? There are too many variables for other toxins. People giving the vaccines had no interest in the finding the answers until it is epidemic. Too many are busy defending their position that they tout one study or another. LOOK AT THE NUMBERS then think about whether you want to continue touting 'genetics – not my problem'. If it was soley genetic without some other factors, the population as a whole is mutating and it won't stop. When the population is 90% effected, how will your perfect grandchildren fare?

    October 11, 2010 at 04:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Elizabeth Freebird

    Check this chart out...a DIRECT CORRELATION between aspartame use (artificial sweetener in packaged foods, sweet n low, equal) and the autism rates in America. I have an autistic son, my youngest of 4 and I drank a lot of diet cherry coke during pregnancy. Aspartame is a neuro toxin, this and his father having the gene, I forgot which one...worth looking at.

    October 11, 2010 at 06:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Marti

    I have a set of boy fraternal twins fully vaccinated at the same exact time – same lot – and one is high functional Autism and the other is an all-american boy no signs of Autism whatsoever. The autistic twin showed symptoms way before the age of two – he was quite different than his twin brother is all aspects. I also have 2 adult children now who also were fully vaccinated and shows no signs of Autism. I personally believe it is a generic makeup that exposes itself after a certain age. Unfortunately there are a host of other diseases out there that do not appear with symptoms until the child/adult is of a certain age – for example – any of the leukodystrophy's – Krabbe's disease as an example – doesn't show symptoms until 6 months of age, then you have Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Disease – the list can go on. I personally believe one is born with the genetic makeup for these horrendous diseases and vaccines have no part of it.

    October 11, 2010 at 07:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Karon

    I have an adult child with high functioning autism. He had his own language until he was 3 or 4, and I had to learn to speak his language before I could teach him English. His siblings, one older and one younger, remember the odd language we used to speak to each other, and his older sibling learned enough of it to be able to translate for him. Here's the odd part – I did the same thing. I remember my mom asking me a question and then asking my older sister to translate. I thought I was speaking English and wondered why my mother never understood a word I was saying. To me it was normal. Later, when my son was about 10, I asked him about it. He, too, thought he was speaking English and didn't realize that what he was saying was coming out as something uninteligable. When it dawned on him, he made a conscious effort to form the words in a way that would be understood as English, as did I at the same age. This case has nothing to do with vaccinations – I didn't get any of mine until I was 14. Autism is a nice little category with many pathways, and it takes a lot of work and a lot of research to figure out where each one fits. They're not a "patient." They're not "suffering from" autism. It's just that their version of normal may not be the same as yours. Autistic children take a lot of extra work in language and reading. The only advice I can give in this situation is stop trying to find something to blame and work with the kid!

    October 11, 2010 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. DocSoup

    It always amazes me how correlation in some people's minds equals causation. Observing that aspartame or any other recently developed compound or technology correlates to autism or any other condition is like saying increased cell phone use, or more channels on the TV correlate with the increase in autism (both do directly correlate). That correlation is due not because of a direct cause, but coincidence, just like the initial vaccine correlation. Autism is almost certainly genetic, but not the way eye color or hair color is genetic. All good current research points to genetic defects that are either inherited or occur spontaneously during the formation of the sperm, the egg, or the embryo. There are so many potential defects that can occur, so there are so many things that have been labeled autism. Labeling is one of the most unfortunate things that has ever occurred in medicine. Insurance companies and government programs have forced doctors to give everyone a code to get reimbursed for services. Parental concerns is not a reimbursable diagnosis. Also for schools to provide services, an official diagnosis has to be given. Unfortunately we can no longer just care for patients, we must label them, and lump them. Children and adults with autism are individuals, and their genetic make up is different just like the rest of us. Unfortunately, their genetic makeup creates challenges that the rest of us will never appreciate

    October 11, 2010 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • carl pavlica

      While you are correct in asserting that "autism is almost certainly genetic" and the current valid research does point in that direction the medical and research community have to wrap their reseources around another issue. We are what we eat. you said it yourself regarding artificial and even naturally occuring sugars in things such as fruit juice. Its just plain not good for the human body. This is but one example from an innumerable list of things that we humans are digesting at an alarming rate daily that we simply should not be putting into our bodies. vaccines are cultured with a long list of items that should never be put into the human body. The medical community says the potentials risk of a serious reaction to the vaccine is minimal in comparison to the risk of acquiring the disease being vaccinated against. Thousands of chemicals are being put into our foods and the medical and governmental communities spend seamingly more effort and resources disquieting theories of causation than looking realistically at the obvous cause: Ingested toxins from food, drink, air, water and medicine. In short, the toxins we ingest are causing the genetic anomallies that we have seen in alarming rates in the last 2 -3 decades. Rein in the toxins and disease and genetic abnormality will decline.

      November 3, 2010 at 11:43 | Report abuse |
  22. Elizabeth Freebird


    October 11, 2010 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DocSoup

      The same thing can be done with anything that has increased over the last 20 years. There is a direct and consistent correlation between my age and the rate of autism, ADD, or any diagnosis that has increased over the last 20 years. Just because there is a tight correlation doesn't mean cause. A mechanism that shows exactly how aspartame causes autism would have to be discovered and be reproduced in several studies to make the jump to actually saying aspartame causes autism. There is no such data. I don't like any of my young patients to eat or drink any artificially sweetened foods or drink. I don't think there is enough data to say it is good for the developing child. I also discourage juice because it is loaded with sugar even more so than Coke. I try to encourage water, plain water. It is the best thing anyone can drink.

      October 11, 2010 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
    • DocSoup

      Just to note, autism has been also associated with cell phones, obesity, corn syrup, and cigarettes. All list possible albeit far fetched mechanisms. To date none of these theories have panned out because there is only a correlation, not a causation. I would love for there to be an answer this simple because then we could prevent and treat this challenging problem.

      October 11, 2010 at 18:14 | Report abuse |
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