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What Is The Difference Between Autism And Down Syndrome

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Autism Vs Down Syndrome: How Can We Differentiate

Difference between Autism and Down Syndrome

Autism and downs syndrome are both developmental conditions that occur in both children and adults. They may present in one individual although the causes, symptoms and treatments for both are entirely different.

AutismThis is a condition that affects the behaviour of a child characterized by impaired communication, poor social interactions, impaired body movement and seizures.

It is caused by a number of factors which include

  • Abnormal brain development. The inability of the body to metabolize phenylalanine amino acid a condition known as phenylketonuria due to the absence of enzymes required for the metabolic process.
  • Viral infections of the pregnant mother such as toxoplasmosis that is passed unto the unborn fetus during pregnancy.
  • Inflammation of the brain after birth as a result of an infection caused by bacteria, virus or fungus.
  • Neurodevelopmental conditions of genetic origin that affect nerves and neurons such as fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis.
  • Immunological problems with a compromised immune system and the occurrence of autoimmune disorders.
  • Vaccines such as the influenza vaccine.

There are different types of autism which include

Different types of Down syndrome include

  • Trisomy 21 which is the most common type of Down syndrome.
  • Mosaic Down syndrome where an individual has either two or three copies of the extra chromosome 21.
  • Robertsonian translocation that occurs with chromosomal rearrangements with improper fusing

What Is Chronic Daily Headache Syndrome

Chronic daily headache refers to headaches of almost any type that occur very frequently, generally at least 15 days per month for a period of six months or more. Chronic migraine is diagnosed when headache occurs greater than 15 days per month and migraine or pain killer use occurs at least eight of those days.

What Is The Difference Between Down Syndrome And Mental Retardation

Mental retardation is a side effect of Down syndrome. Down syndrome or trisomy 21 is a chromosomal disorder caused by the presence of all or part of an extra Twenty-first chromosome. Children with Down syndrome tend to share certain physical features such as a flat facial profile, an upward slant to the eyes, small ears, a single crease across the center of the palms, and an enlarged tongue. A doctor can usually tell if a newborn has the condition through a physical exam. Down Syndrome also causes mild to moderate mental retardation.

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The Significance Of Shared Symptoms Of Language Disorders

There are two possible approaches to investigation, both of which require an understanding of language symptoms within and across conditions. These approaches are described as top-down versus bottom-up. Although an ideal program of investigation would include both approaches, in converging investigations of language symptoms and etiological factors, individual studies are usually constrained to one approach. In Smith and Morris , the two approaches to genetics studies are described in terms of how to define the starting point of investigation: a top-down approach would focus on precise specification of the language phenotype to search for genes affecting specific language disorders a bottom-up approach would focus on the language phenotypes in known genetic syndromes as models of gene effects. Fisher’s paper in this issue illustrates how a fortuitous bottom-up approach led to a gene discovery that in turn now guides molecular investigations of the symptoms.

Know The Signs Of A Dual Diagnosis Of Down Syndrome And Autism Spectrum Disorder

Know the Signs of a Dual Diagnosis of Down Syndrome and ...

As a parent of a child with Down syndrome , navigating the healthcare system can be difficult and tiring, and finding the appropriate resources and interventions for your child can seem incredibly daunting. Now imagine your child has a dual-diagnosis. Did you know that 2-10% of individuals with Down syndrome also meet criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder ? What does that mean for families? With a dual-diagnosis of DS and ASD, families have more access to valuable resources and benefits for their child, such as medication and/or behavioral treatment like social skills training and Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy.

With this blog, parents will be able to better understand the differences and similarities between Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorder, consider if their child meets the criteria for a dual-diagnosis, and determine appropriate next steps.

Down Syndrome Characteristics

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that occurs when there are three copies of Chromosome 21. Physical attributes can include small mouth and nose, large tongue, almond-shaped eyes with skin that covers the inner eye, and stunted growth. Individuals with DS often experience physical challenges as well, such as vision and hearing impairments, and weight problems. DS can be detected during pregnancy through prenatal screening and diagnostic testing. According to the National Down Syndrome Society , common behaviors of children with DS include:

Autism Spectrum Disorder Characteristics

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Clinical Research: Down Syndrome Autism Often Coexist

Regression risk: Children who have both autism and Down syndrome are more likely to lose language and other skills than children who have Down syndrome alone.

Nearly 40 percent of people with Down syndrome also meet the criteria for an autism spectrum disorder, suggests a U.K. study of nearly 500 children, published in Autism Research1.

The study found that 38 percent of children with Down syndrome meet a screening test cutoff for either classic autism or another pervasive development disorder on the autism spectrum.

In keeping with the elevated prevalence of autism in males, the study shows that boys with Down syndrome are significantly more likely to meet the criteria for an autism spectrum disorder than girls with Down syndrome.

The study assessed whether children show signs of autism by asking their caregivers to fill out the SocialCommunication Questionnaire , which consists of yes-or-no questions about social and communicative deficits and repetitive and restricted behaviors.

The researchers note that the SCQ does not provide a clinical diagnosis. For example, using the SCQ and an additional questionnaire, a 2010 study initially estimated that 42 percent of children with Down syndrome have an autism spectrum disorder. However, after assessing some participants using more rigorous in-person tests, it downgraded the estimate to 18 percent2.

Some Perspective On Autism

Autism used to be seen as a behavior disorder. In the past, people saw these differences and thought they should be punished.

Nowadays, we know that these things help autistic people feel comfortable. Fidgeting helps them stay calm. Enjoying their interests isnt wrong, and it can be fun to join them.

Besides, some parts of autism are good. I had several autistic friends in college. They were fun, creative, unique people who made me laugh. If I needed an opinion, then I knew I could count on them to tell the truth. Whatever I did, they didnt judge me for being different.

Above all, its important to respect who they are.

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What Is The Behavior Of Down Syndrome

The most common mental health concerns include: general anxiety, repetitive and obsessive-compulsive behaviors oppositional, impulsive, and inattentive behaviors sleep related difficulties depression autism spectrum conditions and neuropsychological problems characterized by progressive loss of cognitive skills.

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Structural Language And False Belief Understanding Differences

Down Syndrome Answers: Is Down syndrome the same as autism?

Our results indicated that the poorer structural language skills of individuals with DS relative to those with FXS are likely a consequence of their lower level of NV cognition. Or put differently, when statistically matched on NV cognition, the two groups are equally impaired in terms of virtually all structural language variables examined.

The present findings regarding structural language contrast with the findings of several previous investigations that have suggested a weakness in expressive syntax for participants with DS relative to participants with FXS, even when the groups are matched on cognitive functioning . Because the present project utilized multiple measures of structural language, including syntax measured in a standardized test and in a structured naturalistic conversation and with similar results across measures, the difference between our findings relative to other studies are not likely to be due to task or context . Instead, it is more likely that the difference between our findings and those of previous studies is due to differences in participant characteristics, such as age, sex distributions, or language criteria for enrollment.

Pragmatic Skills Differences

Cognitive and Behavioral Differences Between Males and Females With Down Syndrome

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A Few Differences Between Autism And Down Syndrome

Some of the main differences between Down syndrome and autism include:

  • Looks
  • Intellectual disability
  • Body language

Looks: People with Down syndrome look different. You can almost always tell at a glance. Meanwhile, autistic people look like everyone else.

Intellect: Almost all people with Down syndrome have an intellectual disability. Thus, things like counting change, reading large books, and understanding the world are harder. Meanwhile, autism doesnt lower your IQ. Autistic people can have any level of intelligence.

Body language: Down syndrome doesnt change body language. Autistic people tend to fidget and avoid eye contact. This helps them feel better, so dont tell them to stop.

Of course, you cant always tell. For example, if someone has mosaic Down syndrome, then some of their cells have Down syndrome and some dont. That means the signs might be subtler. Autistic people can also mask or hide their natural behavior. However, this is bad for their mental health.

These signs are there, whether theyre obvious or not. If someone is open about it, then it means they trust you with who they are.

Impact Of Sex In Ds Participants

Descriptive statistics, Cohens d, and confidence intervals for the comparison of females with DS and males with DSâmatched on both CA and NV cognitionâon each of the dependent variables are presented in Table 3. Cohens drevealed large differences on nearly all measures of structural language, with all differences reflecting better performance on the part of the females with DS. The exceptions were talkativeness and dysfluency in conversation, which were found to fall in the no significant differences category according to Cohens d. We also found that the Cohens d suggested that there were no significant differences between males and females with DS on any of the measures of social cognition, pragmatic skills, or behavioral problems.

Table 3. Descriptive analyses, Cohens d, and confidence intervals for cognitive, linguistic, social-cognitive, and behavioral performance of males with DS compared to females with DS matched on CA and NV cognition.

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Obstacles To Diagnosing Ds

“If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck…guess what?”

Parents sometimes face unnecessary obstacles in seeking help for their children. Parents have shared several reasons demonstrating this. Some of the more common include:

Failure to recognize the dual diagnosis:


Failure to recognize the dual diagnosis except in the most severe cases.


This is frustrating for everyone who is actively seeking solutions for a child. If you are in this situation and feel that your concerns are not taken seriously, keep trying. The best advice is to trust your gut feeling regarding your child. Eventually you will find someone willing to look at all the possibilities with you.

Diagnostic confusion:

Diagnostic confusion with other behavioral or psychiatric conditions such as ADHD, OCD or depression.


Lack of acceptance by professionals regarding the possibility of a dual diagnosis for anyone with Down syndrome:


There is sometimes a lack of acceptance by professionals that ASD can co-exist in a child with Down syndrome who has cognitive impairment. They may feel an additional label is not necessary or accurate. Parents may be told, “This is part of ‘low functioning’ Down syndrome.” We now know this is incorrect. Children with DS-ASD are clearly distinguishable from children with Down syndrome alone or those who have Down syndrome and severe cognitive impairment when standardized diagnostic assessment tools such as the ABC are used.



General Themes Across Different Clinical Conditions

What is the difference between autism and Down syndrome ...

The second general issue is whether the language symptoms appear to be delayed or deviant relative to normal development. Although this issue has been most explicitly investigated for the condition of SLI, it is also intrinsic to the interpretive issues that apply to other conditions of language disorders. In the delayed scenario, the language impairments can seem to share many points of similarity with younger, typically developing children, as if the language system is chronologically guided such that by a certain age level typically developing children have acquired a set of particular language skills, whereas the language of children with language impairments reflects a less mature pattern very similar to younger children. In contrast, in the deviant scenario the language system of children with language impairments might not parallel that of younger children. Instead, the kinds of errors and limitations in language use and competency are inconsistent with what is known about any given level of typical language acquisition. The distinction between delayed and deviant bears on interpretation of the language impairment and possible etiological considerations: Are the linguistic systems of affected children fundamentally similar to unaffected children, or are the systems fundamentally different? Are underlying neurocognitive processes and mechanisms fundamentally similar or different? This issue will be highlighted when appropriate in the following review.

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How Common Is It

Over the past 25 years, some dozen papers have reported cases of children and adults with Down syndrome and autism. There have also been some surveys in the UK and Sweden which suggest that about 5-7% of children with Down syndrome have autistic spectrum disorders. A recent study of a sample of young children in the USA found 2 children in a group of 20, giving a 10% incidence. These all suggest that the rate is considerably lower than the 16.7% that would be expected for children with IQs across the mild/moderate/severe range. In fact, it could be argued that children with Down syndrome have some inbuilt social strengths that reduce the likelihood of having autism despite their delayed language and intellectual development.

My wife Denise and I are parents of five children, three of whom have Down syndrome. Our middle child, Charlie , has dual diagnosis of Down syndrome/Autism. He clearly functions and learns at a different level than his siblings, who have âtypicalâ Down syndrome.Mike Allshouse

At What Age Can Autism Be Diagnosed

There is now general agreement that an experienced professional can reliably diagnose autism by 3 years of age in the general child population. There is also evidence that some children may be identified earlier on screening tools, relying on early indicators such as differences in eye-contact, joint attention, pointing, imitation and play behaviors.

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Down Syndrome And Autistic Spectrum Disorder: A Look At What We Know

During the past 10 years, Ive evaluated hundreds of children with Down syndrome, each one with their own strengths and weaknesses, and certainly their own personality.

Sometimes parents bring their child with Down syndrome to the clinicnot always for the first timeand they are deeply distraught about a change in their childs behaviour or development. Some families do their own research and mention they think their child may have autistic spectrum disorder along with Down syndrome. Others have no idea what may be happening. They do know it isnt good and they want answers now. This article is for families in situations like this and other, similar ones.

If your child has been dually-diagnosed with Down syndrome and autistic spectrum disorder or if you believe your child may have ASD, you will learn a little more about what that means, what we are learning through data collection, and insights to the evaluation process.

There is little written in the form of research or commentary about DS-ASD. In fact, until recently, it was commonly believed that the two conditions could not exist together. Parents were told their child had Down syndrome with a severe to profound cognitive impairment without further investigation or intervention into a diagnostic cause. Today, the medical profession recognises that people with Down syndrome may also have a psychiatric-related diagnosis such as ASD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder .


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Difference Between Autism And Down Syndrome

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Autism vs Down Syndrome

Autism and Down syndrome are well known causes of mental retardation. There are other causes of mental retardation, as well. However, these two are important because Down syndrome represents the pure genetic end of the spectrum while autism represents the purely psychological end. Even though some studies have suggested a genetic link to autism, it remains very doubtful to this date. This article will talk about both autism and Down syndrome in detail highlighting the differences in clinical features, symptoms, causes, tests and investigation, prognosis, and the course of treatment they require.

Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders

The cause of autismand autism spectrum disorders is due to abnormal development of the nervous system. Autism first appears in childhood or infancy. There are three main symptoms of autism. They are poor social interactions, impairment of communication, and restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. Due to poor interactions, autistic children fail to make friends, play alone, and remain possessive. They find it difficult to speak and express feelings through body language. They develop a unique set of behaviors that they hardly ever change. They like to stack objects up, line up toys and adhere strictly to a daily routine. Autism symptoms become apparent around one to two years of age. Some children develop normally before regressing. During adulthood, the signs of autism are rather muted.

Down Syndrome

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How Is Autism Diagnosed

The diagnosis of autism or autistic spectrum disorder is usually made by a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist will use the diagnostic criteria set down in one of the two major diagnostic guides, the ICD 10 or the DSM IV in use in the USA. The psychiatrist may use clinical experience to make a diagnosis based on the ICD 10 or DSM IV criteria but increasingly one of two standard diagnostic tests will also be used. These are the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule and the Autism Diagnostic Interview . The use of these measures, for which specialised training is required, improves the reliability of diagnosis. However, a child may need to be seen in familiar environments at home and in nursery or school – not just in the clinic – to obtain a full picture of their behaviors and difficulties .

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