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Kennedy Krieger Initiative Helps Identify Autism Spectrum For At-Risk Infants

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—It’s Autism Awareness Month, and researchers at Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute have developed a new initiative to help identify autism in infant siblings of children with the disorder.

Ron Matz has more on the free pilot program that will bring support and awareness to families with children most at risk.

Trelina Anderson’s 3-year-old daughter Jasmine has a form of autism.

“I think sometimes it’s scary when you start thinking something might be wrong with your child,” Anderson said. “You start thinking maybe it’s more than just a speech delay or it’s more than just shy. Sometimes that makes some parents not want to call and find out what’s wrong.”

Anderson enrolled her 9-month-old daughter Laurel in Kennedy Krieger’s new developmental assessment initiative to see if Laurel is also at risk.

“The earlier we get this ball rolling the better,” Anderson said. “Maybe Laurel will never have a diagnosis on the spectrum, but if she does we’ll know right away.”

Dr. Rebecca Landa is the director of Kennedy Krieger’s Center for Autism. She says families who have one child with an autism spectrum disorder have a one in five chance of a sibling developing ASD.

“If you have a child with autism there’s a one in five chance that another child you would have later will have an autism spectrum disorder,” the doctor said. “If there’s a child with autism in the family, then the subsequently born children should be followed developmentally rather closely because there’s a high likelihood those children will have a mild developmental delay or autism.”

Landa wrote the forward to this new book, Raising Kids on the Spectrum.

“The reason we’re doing this initiative is that we need to be thinking about autism like we think about other medical conditions such as diabetes or cancer, where if there’s a known risk for these disorders people who are in the family are screened and monitored. We need to be doing that with babies who are born into families who already have a child with autism,” Landa said.

Families like the Andersons are getting help from Kennedy Krieger and doing it early.

“The earlier we can get an intervention the better her outcome will be,” Anderson said. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. The sooner you know the sooner you can move forward and have a great outcome hopefully for your child through life.”

Landa is donating any proceeds she would receive from the new book to the center for autism at Kennedy Krieger. Tuesday night Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will turn the lights at City Hall blue to commemorate Autism Awareness Month.

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