Discussions about the shared traits between children with autism spectrum disorders and their undiagnosed parents often lead to pondering the broader autism phenotype. Is it possible for relatives of autistic kids to have autism spectrum disorder…to a lesser degree?
Autism spectrum disorder is a medical diagnosis but the broader autism phenotype is not. Rather, it refers to subclinical cognitive, personality, and behavioral traits in relatives of autisitc individuals; relatives who do not meet the diagnostic criteria for an autism spectrum disorder as presented in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM–5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
A person who is not on the spectrum may have characteristics mirroring traits of their autistic relatives like: being socially awkward, an insistence on sameness, and narrow, fixed interests. Parents, especially, may look at their kids autistic traits, and identify milder versions of these in themselves, leading to questions about being