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Herdity of autism...is our family at risk?
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Herdity of autism...is our family at risk?

I relize that little research has produced results with regard to the genetics of Autism and other developmental maladies so I preface my inquiries knowing I am asking, most likely, unanswerable questions.
My husband and I have an extremely healthy, above average (in every developmental way) twentysix-month-old girl. We are considering another pregnancy but I have some grave concerns.
My mother is one of 6 children, all healthy and normal but one sister with mental retardation. No other problems anywhere that I know of or from any cousins. No problems on my paternal side.
I am one of three (two brothers and me) healthy normal children.
My husband's family is another story. Maternal side seems to have one per generation autistic males. My husband's mother has three brothers, two normal, one autistic. One of her normal brother's daughter has an autistic son. My husband is one of four children. Two boys and two girls. One boy with undiagnosed autism. The family won't call it autism. He is in his mid twenties, holds down a part-time job, goes to community college and is quite an incredible Shakespearian actor. His social skills are nil, he talks with himself, flicks his fingers and avoids conversation (he will answer when spoken to, however), eye contact and social settings. He is not financially independant and relys much on his parents for various forms of support.
No problems on my husband's paternal side that I know of.
I have come to believe that only the females on the maternal side of this family produce autistic children (i.e. the brothers produced normal male and female children but the female child produced an autistic male). I am concerned that this is just a coincidence and that my husband could be at risk for producing an autistic child. Is there any creedence to my theory?
I want to have another baby but this is a huge deterrant for me. Also, I just turned 37 so I feel the "now or never" crunch coupled with the further risks assoicated with later pregancies compounding whatever genetic risks may be present. Is there any evidence that the HOXA1 gene is detectable in normal persons, perhaps carrying this gene and therefore posing a risk of producing an autistic child? Can my husband and I get tested for this gene? If so, is the presence of this gene a harbinger of future autistic children? As per my theory, will my daughter be at risk for having an autistic child?
I appreciate any wisdom or input...Elizabeth
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Your thought that the role of the mother may be significant is supported by the fact that, in some studies of the variant of the HOXA1 gene, when it is inherited from the mother the chances of a child displaying an autistic disorder are greater than if the variant is inherited from the father. As we learn more and more about the genetic basis of many biologically based mental disorders and various neurointegrative disorders, it is now clear that genetic factors sometimes are crucial in the development of atutistic-spectrum conditions, though genetics may not be the only contributing factor. For me to go beyond this would be irresponsible, because this is not an area of my expertise. It would be sensible to schedule an appointment with a geneticist to receieve answers to your queries. Also, some of our readers may weigh in with some information.
9 Comments
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There is no prenatal test for autism, just fragileX.
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Just know what signs to look for and act early. Thats pretty much all you can do in the case of autism. And if you really want to be cautious do like so many others are doing now days, dont immunize.
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I can certainly understand your concern about the risk associated with having another child with such an indepth history of autism on your husband's side of the family.  Currently, there isn't a prenatal test for autism.  I have a very limited history of autism in my family.  My 3 year old son is diagnosed as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder (He's on the high functioning side, but not likely Asperger's) my nephew has Asperger's and I have also tested high for having Asperger's on the adult Autism Quotient assessment.  In my nephew's case, he is much more apparent than I am.  However, autism isn't the end of the world as the media would like to portray, but it is much harder to parent autistic children, but the reward I think is probably greater.  

There are a number of gene's likely envolved in autism.  Science has only been able to detect one set of gene's on the 15q, but this only affects 1% of autistics who also have profound MR.  There was some studies in mice that showed the HOXA1 was associated with ASD but those studies have not been replicated and today the consensus is that HOXA1 is not involved.  See:  http://www.neurotransmitter.net/autismnegative.html

Your feelings about having an autistic child may be shaped by your husband's relatives and how severe the presentation is in those relatives.  You probably are unaware of how many autistic people there are that you never assumed were autistic but perhaps thought they were a bit eccentric or shy.  

Your chances of having a child with an ASD is probably 15-20% based on your husband's genetic history.  These are the statistics for parents who have had one child with ASD.  I would think that they might be true in your circumstance as well.
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Just remember that ANY child can be born with a disease or deformaty or mild impairment, and sometimes those prenatal tests arent always accurate. But you will love that child no matter what may or may not be wrong with him or her.
One advantage that parents of "disabled" children have over other parents is that they dont take for granted the things their kids do and learn to appreciate the things they do even more.
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I have 4 children, one has AS the rest don't.  Whether you have a "healthy" child or not none of them are always "normal".  Wait until jr high and high school.  The only thing "normal" about them is that they are all adnormal.  I don't have any autistic history in either my husbands or my family so you just never know.
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My hope was to gain information, not to offend. I realize that many folks on this web site are parents of children with Autism. My intention was not to diminsh children with disabilities in any way. I should have chosen my words more carefully. I can only thank you for your wisdom and information...
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I am sorry to say this...but I have 3 boys with various degrees of autism.  I have self diagnosed my husband and probably brother as aspergers as well as my dad and several of his brothers.  On my mom's side I have a cousin and others with severe autism.  On my husband's side his uncle was autistic.  So I say if you are concerned about it DON'T Have any more children.  There is nothing wrong with adoption.  I love all my boys but with a 10 year old (high functioning autism), 8 year old (Aspergers, ODD) and now a 2 1/2 (probably PDD-NOS) presenting symptoms it is hard to keep up with life.  I love them dearly but life is very hard.  It is better for you to not have any other kids, or spin the sperm and take  your chances with another girl.  As a mom who knows what it is like you might not want to take the chance.
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i have a 6 year old son with autism and severe adhd. I was troubled over whether to have another child or not but like yourself at 36 the clock was ticking loudly, I came to a decision after much thought that i would rather try for another child than be left wondering what if? I dearly ached to experience what all my friends were experiencing with their childrens firsts achievements. I had a daughter who is now nearing one and she is not showing any signs of autism that her brother showed at her age, but only time will tell. But what i can tell you is that now she's here and the decisions done,i'm happy. Today i had a particularly bad day with my son and i think both of us were lucky to survive, and yet still i can say i dont mind if my daughter is or is not autistic because both of my kids make me feel special inside and you cant beat that. Try to remember that all kids are difficult in their own way and the autistic child more so but they give back a lot too and every accomplishment is greater than winning the lottery
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