Mentor: Dr. Robert Wozniak
Current research has shown that infants (Sibs-ASD) with an older sibling who has been diagnosed with autism are at an increased risk of having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) themselves. To date, however, very little research has been done to identify which of these younger siblings will actually receive an eventual ASD diagnosis. In this study, 18 Sibs-ASD and 18 comparison infants with an older sibling but no known risk of ASD (Sibs-NR) were videotaped at 13 and 18 months in naturalistic interaction and directed play with their primary caregiver. Each session took place at home and lasted for approximately 45 minutes. Videotapes were coded for infants’ use of communicative gestures and vocalizations. Gestures were coded as deictic (reach, give, show, point) or representational and vocalizations as words or non-words. In this aspect of the study, the particular focus is on communicative combinations. Communicative combinations involve a pairing between a gesture and a vocalization (e.g., Point to cat and say “cat”). Each infant’s data was coded for the number of reaches, gives, shows, and points they made that overlapped with a vocalization (word or non-word). Data for Sibs-ASD who have gone on to receive as ASD diagnosis will be compared to that from non-diagnosed Sibs-ASD and Sibs-NR in the hope that the information collected will contribute towards an earlier ASD screening for all infants and therefore eventually allow for earlier treatment options.