In a study of 600 three year old children who had an autistic older brother or sister, one out of five were diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome or another disorder. The results of the study was shocking to experts who thought the odds were much lower. At around age 3, participants in this study were tested for autism. Boys are three times more likely to have autism as girls.

Asperger’s syndrome is what some might describe as a less severe form of autism. Many children with Asperger’s syndrome, although not necessary for a diagnosis, present as physically clumsy and atypical use of language. They have difficulty in social situations as well as restricted or repetitive behavior. The exact cause is unknown.

The study suggests that pediatricians need to be aware of this report and bring older siblings in to have genetic testing. Awareness is the key.

“We know that the brain at young ages is more amenable to change,” said study author Wendy Stone, of the University of Washington Autism Center in Seattle.”

“When children are showing signs (of autism) even before the diagnosis is official, we need to start thinking about, how can we help parents within the course of their everyday activities to promote their child’s social and emotional development?” she told Reuters Health.

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