Interaction among siblings that one of them has ASD - parameters for examination

Authors:  Yonat Rum, Professor Esther Dromi Tel Aviv University (2016)

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined as a communicative-social disorder (APA, 2013). In the past, children with ASD were described as deliberately avoiding social interaction and as lacking any social abilities (Kanner, 1943). Contemporary research has shown that these children do possess social abilities, and that these depend both on the social partner with whom they are interacting as well as the context of interaction. For example, Kimhi & Bauminger-Zviely (2012) found better social skills with a partner defined as ‘a friend’ rather than with a ‘non-friend’ partner. Better skills were also found when this friend was a child with typical development (TD) as compared to a friend who also had ASD (Bauminger-Zvieli, 2013). Children with ASD were found to have more reciprocal conversations when talking with other children as opposed to when talking with adults (Nadig et al., 2010). These findings accentuate the significant impact social partners have on the ability of a child with ASD to execute social skills.
Sibling relationships are often the longest and most significant relationships in a lifetime, with the potential to deeply influence personality, social and cognitive skills (Boer, Dunn, & Dunn, 2013; Gass, Jenkins, & Dunn, 2007; Noller, 2005). Research on the development of TD young children's social skills highlights the significant role of sibling interaction as one of the most enhancing contexts for acquiring communicative and social skills (Brody, 2004; Dunn, 1992). Considering the fact that communicative-social impairments are fundamental in ASD, the paucity of research on these children's interaction with their siblings is striking.
Very few studies have looked at sibling interaction where one child has ASD and compared it to interaction between siblings who were both TD, or where one had a disability other than ASD (Kaminsky & Dewey, 2001; Knott, Lewis, & Williams, 1995; 2007). In such studies researchers concluded that dyads containing a participant with ASD were inferior to both other groups in terms of the intensity, complexity, and reciprocity of their social interaction, and also contained less rivalry between siblings (Knott et al., 1995, 2007). Relationships between siblings in the experimental group were characterized by less intimacy and fewer prosocial behaviors than in the relationships of two TD siblings or sibling dyads containing a child with Down syndrome (Kaminsky & Dewey, 2001). However, it is difficult to learn about the unique contribution of the sibling relationship to the social skills of a child with ASD when using such comparison groups. Such methodology highlights the deficits in the siblings’ dyadic interaction–attributed to the disabilities of the child with ASD–instead of highlighting abilities. In our study we utilize a different methodological approach. Rather than compare groups on the basis of averaged data, our aim was to examine in detail the characteristics of sibling interactions, while identifying variables that require direct attention and measuring those variables in great detail.
This poster presents the parameters we used in order to examine sibling interactions in an inter-subject design. The set of parameters we present, as well as the description of the procedures we used while analyzing data with INTERACT software, aims to narrow the gap in the literature regarding sibling interactions in a family with a child with ASD.

Read and see more on the poster, presented on the 52nd Conference of the Israeli Speech, Hearing and Language Association (ISHLA).