Siblings of children with autism: social behavior in early childhood

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Sibling relationships have been shown to impact the development of young children, specifically in the areas of social skills and behavior. Previous research has provided mixed results in regard to having a sibling with autism and its impact on social and behavioral development. Participants were included in the current study, based on meeting the criteria of being between the ages of 2 and 6, and having an older sibling with a diagnosis of autism or no diagnosis at all 1 to 5 years older. The children were then split into 2 groups of 14 children each, based on the siblings' diagnoses. Parents were asked to complete a demographic questionnaire and teachers were asked to complete the Social Skills Improvement Scale (SSIS). Formal observations were also conducted in each of the participants' classrooms to assess peer and teacher interactions. Results from the teacher's ratings determined significant findings, indicating that teachers rate their students who have an older sibling with autism as displaying less prosocial and more problematic behavior than siblings of children without any identified disabilities. Results from the formal observations indicated significance for peer interactions, but not for teacher interactions. The overall findings of this study will support researchers in further investigating this topic and addressing how to support siblings of children with autism in developing appropriate social skills and behavior.
Dissertation completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctor of Psychology degree in School Psychology at Alfred University, Alfred, NY.
Siblings, Autism, Child development