Nightly News | August 15, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: As we mentioned, we are back tonight with news about autism . Specifically, a study published in the journal Pediatrics concludes that the link between siblings and autism may be even stronger than generally believed. Our report on this tonight from our chief science correspondent, Robert Bazell .
Ms. LISA COLLEMI: Show me 40 inches.
ROBERT BAZELL reporting: Lisa Collemi was pregnant with her daughter, Victoria , when her son, Angelo , then age two, was diagnosed with autism . When Victoria was only nine months old, her parents suspected she had autism too and it was later confirmed by doctors.
Ms. COLLEMI: It gave us a level of comfort to know that we knew the direction that we needed to take with her.
BAZELL: Until now, researches estimated the risk of a child having autism was between 3 and 10 percent if an older sibling had the disorder. But this latest study finds the risk is almost 19 percent. For boys it is close to 26 percent, and for an infant who has two older siblings with autism , the risk is 32 percent.
Professor SALLY OZONOFF (University of California Davis): We were surprised by how much higher these estimates were than previous estimates and, speaking personally, very saddened for family members and what they're facing in their own family planning decisions.
BAZELL: The scientists say the research, sponsored by the charity Autism Speaks , found higher numbers because it was larger and more thorough than previous studies and because the definition of autism has expanded.
Prof. OZONOFF: The previous studies that were conducted were largely done in the 1980s and 1990s , and at that time the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders were different and, in fact, were narrower.
BAZELL: Sal and Lisa Collemi are not surprised by the results, in part because they know so many other families with autistic children. Researchers hope the results will make parents even more vigilant. Many studies show that the earlier autistic children get help, the better their prospects.
Miss VICTORIA COLLEMI: Right here?
Mr. SAL COLLEMI: Yes. Good job.
Ms. COLLEMI: Yay!
Mr. COLLEMI: Yay!
BAZELL: Robert Bazell , NBC News, New York.