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Home > Research Articles > Home Affects Mental Development of Fragile X Kids

Reuters Health

Monday, April 15, 2002

Home Affects Mental Development of Fragile X Kids Mon Apr 1, 5:55 PM ET NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - An enriched, structured home environment can aid in the mental development of children with an inherited form of retardation known as fragile X syndrome, a new study shows. In fact, the researchers found, such an environment was more beneficial for the retarded children than their healthy siblings. The findings imply that "the more that a family can encourage learning, enrich the household, and structure the household so that distractions are minimized and routines are maximized, the better these children will be at developing attentional skills," study author Dr. Jennifer Dyer-Friedman of Stanford University in California, told Reuters Health. The effects of fragile X syndrome range from mild learning disability and hyperactivity to severe impairment or autism. The syndrome results from a defect in a gene on the X chromosome known as FMR1. To better understand factors that influence the mental or cognitive development of children with fragile X syndrome, Dyer-Friedman and colleagues evaluated 120 families that had one child with the inherited developmental disability and another sibling without the disease. The researchers conducted 8-hour, in-home visits to assess the IQ of the parents and children and to evaluate the home environment. The findings are published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Parental IQ was the strongest predictor of cognitive outcome in unaffected children, Dyer-Friedman noted. However, "the predictive value of parental IQ was somewhat less strong for affected girls and significantly less strong for boys affected with fragile X," she said. "It means that the mutation is mitigating the impact of parental IQ." She continued, "The enrichment and structure of the home had much more of a predictive value for the fragile X kids than for the unaffected kids. Unaffected kids' intelligence is strongly determined by their genetic material. For those with fragile X, the home environment had a significant impact on overall cognitive aptitude as well as their freedom from distractibility." The research team has obtained funding to conduct a study of these same families over time, the Stanford researcher said. "We hope this lays the groundwork for more studies on the effectiveness of home-based, school-based, and therapist-provided interventions," she added, "because we believe interventions are very important. We just don't know yet what works for whom." SOURCE: Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2002;41:237-244.