Developmental Markers of Genetic Liability to Autism in Parents: A Longitudinal, Multigenerational Study

Molly Losh, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University
Gary E. Martin, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, St. John's University
Michelle Lee, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, Frances Searle
Jessica Klusek, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of South Carolina
John Sideris, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Sheila Barron, College of Education, University of Iowa
Thomas Wassink, Department of Psychiatry, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa

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Genetic liability to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be expressed in unaffected relatives through subclinical, genetically meaningful traits, or endophenotypes. This study aimed to identify developmental endophenotypes in parents of individuals with ASD by examining parents' childhood academic development over the school-age period. A cohort of 139 parents of individuals with ASD were studied, along with their children with ASD and 28 controls. Parents' childhood records in the domains of language, reading, and math were studied from grades K-12. Results indicated that relatively lower performance and slower development of skills (particularly language related skills), and an uneven rate of development across domains predicted ASD endophenotypes in adulthood for parents, and the severity of clinical symptoms in children with ASD. These findings may mark childhood indicators of genetic liability to ASD in parents, that could inform understanding of the subclinical expression of ASD genetic liability.