Chances of Having More Than One Child with Autism (by Cindy N. Ariel, Ph.D.)

Last month, there was a great article in O Magazine called "An Inconvenient Youth: Raising Children with Autism". I really liked the article and not just because I was a part of it, quoted in there even. I thought that the article was touching and very well written by a wonderful writer named Cintra Wilson.

However, when I previewed the article I did not pay enough attention to what seemed like a simple parenthetical statement: "Parents of a child with an ASD have a 2-8% chance of a 2nd child also being affected". This statistic, not simple at all, is the source of concern to a number of people I have since spoken with.

Truth is there is no way of estimating this accurately without knowing the causes of autism. I would be very happy if someone could lead us to some good research that can tell us otherwise. There have been studies, most notably twin studies and there definitely seems to be a genetic component in many, but not all, families.

Since there may be so many genes involved, 2 people with autism could be affected in different ways and by 2 very different sets of genes and other factors. Also the studies and/or the plethora of anecdotal stories that float around about this issue often overlook what may be called the 'broader autism phenotype' which accounts for various areas of behavior and development that are related to autism but not necessarily in conjunction with enough other difficulties to warrant the full diagnosis - such as more isolated sensory issues, social difficulties, or increased rigidity to name a few.

Chances are, if you are worried about having a second child with autism, there could be good reason for it. The decision to have another child is personal and has to take many factors into account including the possibility of another child with some form of an autism spectrum disorder.