ESSEA Working Groups

WG1: The study of genetically ‘at risk’ younger siblings of an older child with a diagnosis.

Work Group 1 involves groups studying the emergence early autism in infancy by the study of ‘at risk’ samples: (1) younger siblings of an older child with a diagnosis; and (2) pre-term babies.

Over the past decade a number of groups in Europe, Israel and North America have begun to exploit the relatively high recurrence rate of autism in families. Between 10% and 15% of children subsequently born to an older child with a diagnosis of autism will develop the disorder and more recent studies suggest even higher rates. This allows the prospective study of infants at genetically ‘at risk’ of developing autism to be studied from the first few months of life. These studies have found a number of differences, mostly in early social communication behaviours and mostly emerging around the younger siblings’ first birthday.

The ESSEA COST Action will allow European laboratories conducting these ‘at risk’ studies to collaborate and share measures. Such coordination and collaboration is essential since the design is predicated on perhaps 15% of the younger siblings developing autism. Thus, even with large numbers of families participating in any one centre, the power to detect early predictors of later autism will require collaborative efforts. The important study of at-risk infant siblings necessarily requires large sample sizes that can only be provided within the context of the Europe-wide collaboration.

Chair: Sven Bölte (Sweden)
Co-Chair: Emily Jones (UK)
Astrid Vicente (Portugal)
Aurora Arghir (Romania)
Chantal Kemner (Netherlands)
Christa Einspieler (Austria)
David Mankuta (Israel)
Fabio Apicella (Italy)
Iva Dudova (Czech Republic)
Jan Buitelaar (Netherlands)
Louise Gallagher (Ireland)
Luise Poustka (Germany)
Magdalena Budisteanu (Romania)
Manuel Posada (Spain)
Markéta Havlovicová (Czech Republic)
Michal Hrdlicka (Czech Republic)
Nurit Yirmiya (Israel)
Patricia Garcia Primo (Spain)
Peter Marschik (Austria)
Ricardo Canal Bedia (Spain)
Sue Fletcher-Watson (UK)
Štěpánka Beranová (Czech Republic)
Teresa Farroni (Italy)
Vladimir Trajkovski (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)