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Hebrew University research shows developmental problems for siblings of autistic children

ifficulties in expressing feelings and in making eye contact, and in social interaction.

Prof. Yirmiya said that such problems cannot be traced to an imitation of the behavior of the older sibling with autism. "The children who were examined in the research had other models of behavior which they could have imitated besides their siblings with autism, such as parents, friends or other (normal) siblings in the family with whom they had frequent contact," she asserted.

The research tested the behavior of 39 children in Israel who had older siblings with autism. The research also involved a comparison group of children with older siblings of normal development. The children in both groups were examined at the ages of four months, 14 months, 24 months, 36 months and 54 months.

The results of the research showed that there were no significant differences between the two groups at the age of four months. Most of the developmental delays were found to appear in the first group from the age of 14 months until the age of four and half. After that, most of those in the group of siblings with autism were able to close the gap between them and the children in the comparison group, with the exception of a few children who persisted with some difficulties in verbal expression.

Prof. Yirmiya said that follow-up work should be undertaken into the elemental school years in order to determine whether there are any problematic symptoms, such as learning difficulties, since these sometimes come to the surface at a later age.

Prof. Yirmiya said that while the research does illustrate some developmental problems with siblings of children with autism, the fact is that to a large extent these problems resolve themselves at a young age without any intervention. Therefore, it is not clear whether prevention programs should be recommended for such children. especially considering the burden that the families are already experiencing. '"/>

Contact: Jerry Barach
jerryb@savion.huji.ac.il
972-258-82904
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
23-Apr-2007


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