Children with ASD and Their Siblings: A Detailed Analysis of Sibling Interactions Using a Micro-Analytic Computerized Methodology

Friday, May 12, 2017: 5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
Y. Rum1, D. A. Zachor2 and E. Dromi3, (1)Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel, (2)Tel Aviv University / Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, Zerifin, ISRAEL, (3)Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, ISRAEL
Background: Sibling relationships are often the longest and most significant relationships a person has in life, with the potential to deeply influence personality, social and cognitive skills (Boer, Dunn, & Dunn, 2013; Gass, Jenkins, & Dunn, 2007). Research on the development of typically developing (TD) young children highlight 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, and the role that TD siblings of children with ASD play on their sibling’s development (Ben-Yitzhak & Zachor, 2016) the paucity of research on these children's interaction with their siblings is striking.

Few studies compared sibling interaction where one sibling has ASD with interaction between TD siblings, or pairs where one sibling has a disability other than ASD (Kaminsky & Dewey, 2001; Knott, Lewis, & Williams, 1995; 2007). Rather than compare groups on the basis of average data, in the current study we aim to examine in detail the characteristics of sibling interaction in a within-subject design.

Objectives:  Frame by frame analysis of sibling interactions in which one sibling is diagnosed with ASD.

Methods:  The primary participants were 10 children with ASD (ages 5-10). Each child was visited at home and video-recorded for about an hour during interactions with: 1) an older TD sibling; 2) the mother, and with each partner data was collected in three activities: 1) a collaborative construction game; 2) while reading a book together; and 3) during play with a familiar toy. The order of tasks and partners were counterbalanced.

Twenty-four video recordings were systematically analyzed utilizing Interact software (a total of 12 hours) according to a set of categories for analysis. In addition, for each partner we coded whether he\she was on or off task, and qualitative remarks regarding joint engagement were noted.

Results: Sibling interactions were mostly positive, and consisted of pro-social, play-related, and discourse actions. Interactions of ASD children with their siblings were more reciprocal balanced and less agonistic than the interactions with their mothers. Episodes of joint engagement were demonstrated in all dyads: More and longer joint engagement episodes were recorded for children with ASD in sibling interactions than with mothers. In some cases of sibling interaction, joint engagement was demonstrated for almost all of the observation period.

Conclusions:  The frame-by-frame analysis revealed indices of better social skills in children with ASD during sibling interaction. This finding is important mainly due to the need to evaluate the social-communicative potential of children with ASD, who often fail to interact with unfamiliar examiners, and do not always fully cooperate with standardized testing. Results have also implications for social intervention programs for children with ASD. Detailed description of siblings' interaction highlight strategies for enhancing communicative skills of children with ASD.