West Lafayette, Indiana - Siblings are the one individual who will travel the life course with a child who is on the autism spectrum disorder, and that is why developing positive relationships early is crucial, says a Purdue University expert.

"Families often worry about their developing infants, and for families raising children with autism, these worries are often elevated," says A.J. Schwichtenberg, an assistant professor of human development and family studies who is leading an ASD Infant Sibling Study. "Parents are aware of the elevated autism recurrence risk in younger siblings of children with autism and they often follow sibling development closely. No matter the abilities of the older sibling, parents can foster positive communication relationships that will last a lifetime."

Some general tips for autism spectrum disorder, also known as ASD, include:

* Talk to your children about challenges and their siblings. Everybody is good in some areas and needs support in others, so help your child recognize these strengths and weaknesses.

* If you have different expectations or rules for one sibling, talk about these differences and explain why. It may help to link this to your discussion of strengths and weaknesses.

* Encourage children to provide positive feedback to their sibling with autism spectrum disorder. This can help foster a "helper" or "teacher" role for the sibling.

* Provide supported sibling play time, such as a structured game, and alone time. Supported sibling play will help create positive interaction models and will give each child a positive sibling experience. Alone time will allow each child a break and will help them look forward to their next playtime together.

Schwichtenberg, who also is an assistant professor in the departments of psychological sciences and speech, language and hearing sciences, focuses on trying to better understand the development of autism in young children. Her project recently joined the Autism Speaks: Baby Sibling Research Consortium, which is one of more than two dozen sites in the nation that collects data on 4,000 families for a variety of studies of autism.

 "What I love the most about this work is that it helps to move the field of autism forward and help families with autism," Schwichtenberg says. "The families who participate receive active child developmental monitoring and often peace of mind."

Schwichtenberg's Infant Sibling Study, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, is seeking infants 15-24 months old who have at least one older sibling diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The study continues until 36 months of age, and during the study, child development experts will provide regular developmental feedback, including assessments of fine and gross motor skills, language, emotional regulation and visual reception. More information about the study is available online or by contacting the Developmental Studies Laboratory coordinator and community liaison, Anastasia Krutulis, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 765-494-6610.