Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children with Down Syndrome

Signs and symptoms of Down syndrome is fairly easy to detect especially since there are specific physical characteristics of the disorder. But what if there is also a diagnosis of autism?

Studies show that 5 to 39% of children with Down syndrome are also on the autism spectrum. There are overlaps in some of the symptoms which delays the signs and symptoms of autism. This observation is slowly growing and informing parents and educators  to observe for specific signs and symptoms.

It is possible that educators and therapist may be the first to notice that children with Down syndrome also display characteristics that are similar to autism.

Why is it important?

According to authors Margaret Froehlke and Robin Zaborek from the book, When Down Syndrome and Autism Intersect, The education approach in both Down syndrome and autism will be different than for children with a single diagnosis of Down syndrome including accommodations and writing the IEP. Teaching strategies will also differ. Teaching a student with Down syndrome who require tactile demonstrations, simple directions, and immediate feedback will now require concrete language, social stories, the use of few choices and the use of concrete language.

The importance of getting the diagnosis
Most often children with Down syndrome are treated for the characteristics of having Down syndrome which overlooks giving children the appropriate treatment for Autism such as social skills and sensory issues. A child or young adult with both diagnosis will likely experience aggressive behaviors, meltdowns, and show signs of regression during their early development. The following are signs and symptoms to look for in your child, or student:
  • Hand flapping
  • Picky eater
  • Echolalia
  • Fascination with lights
  • Staring at ceiling fans
  • History of regression
  • Head banging
  • Strange vocalization
  • Anxiety
  • Seizure Disorder

Signs of overlap include:

As the student gets older, there may be ongoing issues with sensory disorders and transitions leading to meltdowns

Additional Resources:

Autism and Meltdown Resources

Printable Down Syndrome Fact Sheet

 

Reference

When Down Syndrome and Autism Intersect: A Guide to DS-ASD for
Parents and Professionals

By Margaret Froehlke, R. N. & Robin Zaborek, Woodbine House, 218 pp.

Updated 1/12/2021

Thanksgiving and Mealtime Precautions

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Thanksgiving is the day set aside in the United States and Canada as a day of pausing to reflect all that we are thankful for by connecting with friends and family over good food. It is also the day of taking special precautions when serving people with developmental disabilities.

Aspiration is a huge risk during the holiday season. Factors that place people at risk for aspiration includes the following:

  • Being fed by someone else
  • Poor chewing or swallowing skills
  • Weak or absent coughing/gagging reflexes which is common in people with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy
  • Eating to quickly
  • Inappropriate fluid consistency
  • Inappropriate food texture

For children and adults with autism, Thanksgiving may be a challenge for a variety of reasons:

  • Sensory and emotional overload with large groups
  • Picky eaters
  • Difficulty with various textures of food

To help you mange Thanksgiving with ease, click on the articles below:

5 simple steps to hosting an autism-friendly Thanksgiving

8 tips for managing Thanksgiving with children with autism

10 genius ways to help your autistic picky eater to eat this Thanksgiving

Autism and Picky Eating

Autism and Thanksgiving: How to cope with the feasting and hubbub

Feeding kids with sensory processing disorders

Preparing for Thanksgiving on the autism spectrum

Swallowing problems? What to do about Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dinner ideas for speech therapy activities

Tips for Navigating Thanksgiving on the Spectrum

 

Updated 08/26/2020

Down Syndrome and Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) is considered one of the conditions affecting 2% to 4% of adults with Down syndrome and as they get older, the prevalence increases to 37% of men and 50% of women.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

It is a common disorder due to repetitive episodes of different breathing while sleeping due to upper airway collapse. The obstruction occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fails to keep the airway open.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs of obstructive sleep apnea in individuals with Down syndrome include:

  • Snoring
  • Gasping
  • Excessive daytime sleeping
  • Daytime mouth breathing

According the Down Syndrome Association, the following techniques will help with sleeping during the night:

  • a nightly routine at bedtime
  • a bedroom that is free of distractions (e.g. cut out any unwanted light or noise)
  • regular sleeping hours
  • regular exercise and activities
  • avoidance of caffeine and other stimulants in the evening
  • avoidance of exercise in the evening.
Resources

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Down Syndrome– NDSS

Obstructive sleep apnea in children with Down syndrome– Children’s Hospital Boston

Obstructive sleep apnea in children with Down syndrome– Massachusetts General Hospital

Obstruction sleep apnea in patients with Down syndrome: Current perspectives- NCBI

Sleep apnea confirmed common in children with Down syndrome– Cincinnati Children’s

Sleep problems in people with Down syndrome- Down’s Syndrome Association

Printable Down Syndrome Fact Sheet

Today is the last day to recognize Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

You can download a free printed copy of the Down syndrome fact sheet, providing information on the types, prevalence, definition, signs and symptoms, and teaching strategies. Further information includes a list of Down syndrome organizations and foundations.

Click here to download

Down Syndrome and Heart Disease

Down Syndrome  is a chromosomal disorder caused by an extra cell division that results in an extra 21st chromosome. This causes developmental delays both intellectually and physically. The disorder is named after John Langdon Down, a British physician who was the first to describe the syndrome in 1866. The disorder was later identified by Jerome LeJeune in 1959 as a condition associated by the chromosome structure. Down syndrome is the most common chromosome disorder. Each year, about 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome.

An estimate of 1 in 700 babies born. The life expectancy of people with Down syndrome increased between 1960 and 2007. In 1960, an average person with Down syndrome lived to be 10 years old compared to 2007 with people with Down syndrome living to 47 years of age. Often, people born with Down syndrome may develop health issues and a cognitive development ranging from mild to severe. There is often a speech delay and children may lag behind with fine and gross motor skills. Physical characteristics may include a flat nasal bridge, single, deep creases across the center of the palm, protruding tongue, large space between the large and second toe, low muscle tone, almond shape to the eyes.

 

The causes of Down syndrome is due to an extra copy of chromosome 21 in every cell. This is the most common form of Down syndrome. It represents 94% of all cases of Down syndrome. Congenital  heart failure affects 300,000 or 40% of individuals with Down syndrome. There are 3 types:

  • atrioventricular septal defect (AV Canal)- a condition caused by the Septum failure to close properly. This occurs during the embryonic stage and results in a large opening at the center of the heart.
  • Persistent Ductus Arteriosus- when a tube that continues to exists after a baby is born. It is a persistent opening between the two major blood vessels leading from the heart.
  • Tetralogy of Fallot- a heart condition composed of four abnormalities: 1) Ventricular Septal Defect 2) a narrowing of the passage from the right ventricular to the lungs 3) an over enlarged right ventricle due to blood back up 4) an over enlarged aorta, which carries blood from the left ventricle to the body.

Congenital Heart Disease can range from severe to mild. Typically, students do not require special care. For those with more severe heart issues, be aware of the signs and symptoms of a student heart disease is getting worse. This include:

  1. Arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm that can cause the heart to beat fast or too slow
  2. Congenital heart failure- when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to meet the needs of the body.
  3. Pulmonary hypertension- a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue and weakness
  • swelling
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • persistent cough

Things to be aware of in students with Heart Issues:

Tires easily or becomes short of breath after exercise

May have exercise restrictions

May need extra time to go and from classes

 

Resources

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