The development of siblings of children with autism at 4 and 14 months: Social engagement, communication, and cognition

Nurit Yirmiya*, Ifat Gamliel, Tammy Pilowsky, Ruth Feldman, Simon Baron-Cohen, Marian Sigman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

246 Scopus citations

Abstract

Aims: To compare siblings of children with autism (SIBS-A) and siblings of children with typical development (SIBS-TD) at 4 and 14 months of age. Methods: At 4 months, mother-infant interactional synchrony during free play, infant gaze and affect during the still-face paradigm, and infant responsiveness to a name-calling paradigm were examined (n = 21 in each group). At 14 months, verbal and nonverbal communication skills were examined as well as cognition (30 SIBS-A and 31 SIBSTD). Results: Most SIBS-A were functioning as well as the SIBS-TD at 4 and 14 months of age. However, some differences in early social engagement and later communicative and cognitive skills emerged. Synchrony was weaker in the SIBS-A dyads, but only for infant-led interactions. Infant SIBS-A revealed more neutral affect during the still-face procedure and were less upset by it than was true for the SIBSTD. A surprising result was that significantly more SIBS-A responded to their name being called by their mothers compared to SIBS-TD. At 14 months, SIBS-A made fewer nonverbal requesting gestures and achieved lower language scores on the Bayley Scale. Six SIBS-A revealed a language delay of 5 months and were responsible for some of the significant differences between SIBS-A and SIBS-TD. Furthermore, infant SIBS-A who showed more neutral affect to the still face and were less able to respond to their name being called by their mothers initiated fewer nonverbal joint attention and requesting behaviors at 14 months, respectively. Discussion: Focused on the genetic liability for the broad phenotype of autism as well as the possible influence of having a sibling with autism.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)511-523
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Volume47
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2006

Keywords

  • Autism
  • Broad phenotype
  • Joint attention
  • Language
  • Mother-child interaction
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Siblings
  • Still face
  • Synchrony

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