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
- Fascination with lights
- Staring at ceiling fans
- History of regression
- Head banging
- Strange vocalization
- Seizure Disorder
Signs of overlap include:
As the student gets older, there may be ongoing issues with sensory disorders and transitions leading to meltdowns
Autism and Meltdown Resources
Printable Down Syndrome Fact Sheet
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.
Source: Interactive Autism Network
Written By: Marina Sarris
Children and adults with autism are sometimes prescribed an array of psychiatric drugs for hyperactivity, poor attention, or challenging behaviors. One type of medication, called antipsychotics, has become something of a “go-to” treatment for the most severe behaviors. According to the latest studies, one in five or six youth with autism has taken them,1,2 along with 43 percent of adults with autism, on average.3 Antipsychotics are the most frequently used type of psychiatric drug in autism.3
That may be because two antipsychotics are the only drugs approved specifically for certain behaviors in children and teens with autism.1 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave its stamp of approval to aripiprazole (brand name Abilify) and risperidone (brand name Risperdal) for “irritability” in autism – namely self-injury and aggression – almost a decade ago. More recently, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality weighed the scientific evidence on those medications. It found significant benefits and also “harms,” or bad side effects.5 The drugs reduce challenging and repetitive behaviors when compared to no treatment. They also are associated with significant weight gain, sedation, tremors and movement disorders, it noted. Click here to read the rest of the story
Global developmental delays describes when children do not meet their developmental milestones. Generally from the age of 2 months to 5 years old. Although each child is different in their development, milestones are established in order to determine functional skills on age specific tasks.
Delays can occur in the following area:
Gross motor- Involves the use of larges muscle groups such as walking, crawling and standing. May impact children diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Fine Motor- Small movement in the fingers used for drawing, painting, buttoning, coloring, and shoe tying.
Speech and language delay- A delay in language may be due to motor-oral problems.
Cognitive- Delays can be caused by, infections, ,metabolic, toxic, trauma, and chromosomal abnormalities (Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, etc.)
Social/Emotional Skills- Shows signs of delay in responding and interacting with other people. Common cause may be autism spectrum disorder
The following articles provide information on understanding global developmental delays:
6 things I’d tell the parent who just heard the word ‘Global Developmental Delay’
Causes and symptoms of developmental delays
Developmental delays and disabilities
Global Developmental Delay
How a child develops
Recognizing developmental delays in your child
Types of developmental delay in children
Understanding developmental delays
What causes developmental delay?
What you need to know about developmental delays