Diagnosis of Autism in Children with Down Syndrome Properly

New findings from a 16-year study confirm that the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the gold-standard for the classification of mental health conditions, can be used to accurately identify autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children with Down syndrome, according to research from Kennedy Krieger Institute.

The DSM is used by a wide range of health professionals across clinical and research settings. Previously, the diagnosis of autism in children with Down syndrome has been questioned because of the presence of cognitive impairments in these individuals, despite estimates that 10 to 15 per cent of children with Down syndrome are affected by both disorders. Autism-like behaviours are often difficult to differentiate from repetitive behaviours, communication difficulties and other cognitive delays associated with intellectual disability. Because of these challenges, physicians often hesitate to diagnose ASD in children with Down syndrome, leaving them unable to receive important therapy and educational services.

"Based on our findings, I encourage parents of children with Down syndrome who display difficulty with social interaction to ask their providers about the presence of autism or other intellectual disabilities," says Walter E. Kaufmann. "Our results will significantly help clinicians in categorising co-morbidities and support them in developing more targeted educational and intervention services for children with Down syndrome."

Researchers note an unexpected finding: Down syndrome patients with severe autism behaviours were much more likely to have experienced a later onset of ASD. More studies are needed to determine the cause of this phenomenon, which may provide researchers a glimpse into the genetic associations behind autism and Down syndrome.; Source: Kennedy Krieger Institute

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