Autism and related disorders is a term often used. Have you ever wondered what these related disorders are? This article will be discussing three disorders related to Autism and unpack the similarities and difference to Autism itself.
The first related disorder we’ll be discussing is the most well-known one, Asperger’s. Asperger’s Syndrome used to be a separated condition to Autism or it used to be seen as the “lower support needs” form of Autism. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) now classifies it as part of a broader category called Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Asperger’s is now part of the spectrum however it is still often referred to as Asperger’s. Symptoms of this related disorder include difficulty with social skills and interacting with other people. They might have fixative interests and repeat themselves often, especially on one topic that they are fixated on. They may have difficulty showing emotion and expressing emotion in speech and rather use a “robotic” tone. They may be quite routine based and don’t like change. These are all symptoms that are also often found in children with Autism and this leaves the question what is the difference between Autism and Asperger’s? As mentioned earlier it is actually now part of the Autism spectrum but Asperger’s is often seen by doctor’s as lower support needs which means the symptoms are often less severe than children with Autism and may have normal intellect and only have social deficits.
The next related disorder we will be talking about is Fragile X syndrome. Fragile X syndrome is a genetic disorder and it causes various developmental problems. If we look at similarities to Autism we see that children with Fragile X syndrome also have impaired speech and language skills. They may have anxiety and impulsive behaviour. Most of the children with Fragile X syndrome have features of Autism that affect communication and social interactions. This related disorder also affects more males than females as is the case with Autism. If we look at some differences of Fragile X syndrome and Autism we see that in Fragile X syndrome there are some characteristic facial features like a long and narrow face, large ears, prominent jaw line as well as forehead. There are no distinct features that marks Autism.
Lastly we will be discussing Rett Syndrome. Rett syndrome is a neurological disorder. Like Autism it is usually discovered in the first two years, there is no cure for it yet but when identified early, treatment can improve quality of life drastically. It used to be seen as part of the Autism spectrum but because we now know that it is a genetically based it is not part of the spectrum anymore. One of the similarities to autism is that the child seems to be developing normally during the early months and the early signs of Rett Syndrome is similar to Autism which includes impairment in communication abilities, social withdrawal and they also develop repetitive movements. Even though the early symptoms are similar Rett syndrome is actually very different to Autism in that it is a rare disease and Autism is fairly common. There isn’t a known cause of Autism yet whereas we know Rett syndrome is caused by a gene mutation. Autism mostly affects boys and Rett syndrome is more common in girls.
Something that autism and related disorders have in common is that it can be treated through ABA therapy. ABA stands for applied behaviour analysis and it is the application of behavioural analysis on issues that are of social importance. It is a powerful tool to help improve the quality of life for children with Autism and related disorders and its main focus is on behavioural management as well as skill acquisition.
In conclusion it is important to remember that there is always hope when faced with a diagnosis of Autism and related disorders and treatment options are available.