ObjectiveThis study had 3 goals, which were to examine the following: the frequency of atypical development, consistent with the broader autism phenotype, in high-risk infant siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); the age at which atypical development is first evident; and which developmental domains are affected.
MethodA prospective longitudinal design was used to compare 294 high-risk infants and 116 low-risk infants. Participants were tested at 6, 12, 18, 24, and 36 months of age. At the final visit, outcome was classified as ASD, Typical Development (TD), or Non-TD (defined as elevated Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule [ADOS] score, low Mullen Scale scores, or both).
ResultsOf the high-risk group, 28% were classified as Non-TD at 36 months of age. Growth curve models demonstrated that the Non-TD group could not be distinguished from the other groups at 6 months of age, but differed significantly from the Low-Risk TD group by 12 months on multiple measures. The Non-TD group demonstrated atypical development in cognitive, motor, language, and social domains, with differences particularly prominent in the social-communication domain.
ConclusionsThese results demonstrate that features of atypical development, consistent with the broader autism phenotype, are detectable by the first birthday and affect development in multiple domains. This highlights the necessity for close developmental surveillance of infant siblings of children with ASD, along with implementation of appropriate interventions as needed.