Wisconsin Twin Research has partnered with University
of Wisconsin Research on Autism to create a thorough
longitudinal study of twins on the autism spectrum,
internally referred to as the Twin Autism Project (TAP).
The goal of TAP is to learn more about the genetic factors
in autism by comparing similarities and differences
in identical and fraternal twin pairs. A related question
is whether twinning itself or factors in twin prenatal
development might be risk factors for autism. It is
estimated that in Wisconsin there are approximately
150 twin pairs (under age 21) in which one or both twins
are on the autism spectrum.
Over 125 twin pairs have been identified
in which one or both twins are on the autism spectrum
or speculated to be on the spectrum. As of December
2007, seventy-five of these families enrolled
in the phone interview phase of the study. Additionally,
over 50 families participated in the home visit
portion. Brief descriptions of the project phases
are below; however, parents should refer to consent
forms provided by the project for official and more
Currently the project is in the data analysis phase. No families are being recruited at this time.
Family participation in this phase of the study
involves a one-hour phone interview about the twins'
current behavioral, social and language skills, as
well as a brief medical history. The interview is
scheduled at a time that is convenient for families,
including nights and weekends.
The home visit phase involves two visits to the
family's home to get to know the twins better. At
the home visits, a variety of standardized measures
are conducted in order to learn about the twins' motor
and speech skills, their cognitive abilities, and
language production. The children also do vocabulary
and language activities on the computer to examine
During the visits, two members of the research
team will interact with each child one-on-one,
but parents are welcome to observe all activities.
The activities are tailored to the twins' ability
and speech level and are not intended to be stressful.
We are currently planning to use both structural
and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to
better understand the brain function of autistic individuals.
Eligible families that participated in the home visit
phase will be invited to participate in the near future.