Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 145–157 | Cite as

Early Social, Imitation, Play, and Language Abilities of Young Non-Autistic Siblings of Children with Autism

  • Karen Toth
  • Geraldine Dawson
  • Andrew N. Meltzoff
  • Jessica Greenson
  • Deborah Fein
Original Paper


Studies are needed to better understand the broad autism phenotype in young siblings of children with autism. Cognitive, adaptive, social, imitation, play, and language abilities were examined in 42 non-autistic siblings and 20 toddlers with no family history of autism, ages 18–27 months. Siblings, as a group, were below average in expressive language and composite IQ, had lower mean receptive language, adaptive behavior, and social communication skills, and used fewer words, distal gestures, and responsive social smiles than comparison children. Additionally, parents reported social impairments in siblings by 13 months of age. These results suggest that the development of young non-autistic siblings is affected at an early age and, thus, should be closely monitored, with appropriate interventions implemented as needed.


Autism Siblings Social Imitation Play Language 



We wish to thank the children and parents who participated in this study. This research was funded by grants to Geraldine Dawson from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (U19HD34565) and the NIMH (U54MH0663, which is part of the NIH STAART Centers Program), a grant to Deborah Fein and Geraldine Dawson from NIMH (R01HD039961), and by the University of Washington 2005–2006 Gatzert Child Welfare fellowship awarded to Karen Toth. This study fulfilled part of the requirements for a doctoral degree in child clinical psychology for Karen Toth.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Toth
    • 1
    • 2
  • Geraldine Dawson
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Andrew N. Meltzoff
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jessica Greenson
    • 1
  • Deborah Fein
    • 4
  1. 1.UW Autism Center and Center on Human Development and DisabilityUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ConnecticutStorrs-MansfieldUSA

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