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4/17/17 - The Chances Of Having Another Autistic Child

I recently learned some really upsetting news regarding my cleaning lady, Maria. However, it’s important to note that she is more than just a cleaning lady - she has been working for us longer than I’ve been alive, and is more like family. Unfortunately, due to an incident at her neighbor's house, her house and car burned down a couple weeks ago. Thankfully, she, her three kids, and her dog survived this terrible occurrence. Pictured above are her kids: Bruno, age 9, Victoria, age 5, and Santiago, age 7.

Over the years I’ve seen her have each of these three kids. After her first child was born, I saw how distressed she was when she explained to my mom that her first child has severe autism. However, she was prepared for this problem and dedicated her time to fully educate herself on the disease, and how to treat her kid. Then, a couple years later, she had her second child, who was also diagnosed with autism. A few years later, her third kid, yet again had autism. Maria was overwhelmed. It is so hard to imagine the struggle of raising one autistic child, but three? To make matters worse, she is a single parent. And now, of all the tragedies that have struck her family, her house and car have burnt down. My family is trying our best to help, and have collected $500 and a car to help her and her family. Click here if you would like to donate.

This made me curious. What are the chances of having 3 autistic kids? As any parent, Maria began with a 1 in 68 chance of having her first autistic child. According to an article in the New York Times, parents who already have an autistic child have a 1 in 5 chance of having a second child with autism. This research comes from a study conducted at the University of California, where they tracked 664 infants who had an older sibling with autism. These babies were studied from when they were 8 months to 36 months old. Approximately 19% of these children were diagnosed with autism. Therefore, if we expand this ratio to the rest of the population, we can assume that 1 in 5 younger siblings of autism will develop this disorder. This means that Maria's second child had a 13 times greater risk of developing autism than her first child. Furthermore, a child with two or more autistic siblings has a 1 in 3 chance of developing autism. Based on this data, Maria had a less than 0.1% chance of having all her three kids having Autism Spectrum Disorder. Then, according to FEMA, only 0.3% of houses had caught fires in 2010. It is so unfortunate for anyone to experience such adversities of having three autistic kids, and suffer a house fire.

The data on autism amongst sibling shows that genetics could be a major factor of autism. Scientists are now working to find the exact gene(s) that causes this disorder; finding the exact area to target could be the next step towards finding a cure.

This article is based on research by Anahad O'Connor of the New York Times, the Autism Science Foundation, and FEMA.