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01-03-2007 | Original Paper | Uitgave 3/2007

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 3/2007

Studying the Emergence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in High-risk Infants: Methodological and Practical Issues

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders > Uitgave 3/2007
Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, Audrey Thurm, Wendy Stone, Grace Baranek, Susan Bryson, Jana Iverson, Alice Kau, Ami Klin, Cathy Lord, Rebecca Landa, Sally Rogers, Marian Sigman
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Please note that the opinion and assertions contained herein are the private opinions of the authors and are not to be construed as official or as representing the views of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, or the National Institutes of Health.


Detecting early signs of autism is essential for timely diagnosis and initiation of effective interventions. Several research groups have initiated prospective studies of high-risk populations including infant siblings, to systematically collect data on early signs within a longitudinal design. Despite the potential advantages of prospective studies of young children at high-risk for autism, there are also significant methodological, ethical and practical challenges. This paper outlines several of these challenges, including those related to sampling (e.g., defining appropriate comparison groups), measurement and clinical implications (e.g., addressing the needs of infants suspected of having early signs). We suggest possible design and implementation strategies to address these various challenges, based on current research efforts in the field and previous studies involving high-risk populations.

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