It is difficult to determine the prevalence of autism among children and adults with Down syndrome for many reasons. According to research from the NIH(*), 16% of children with Down syndrome have a dual diagnosis of autism.
If you are concerned your child with Down syndrome is exhibiting some characteristics of autism, the first step is to get an evaluation from a professional who ideally has experience evaluating children with intellectual disabilities. It is important to first rule out any other underlying medical conditions that could be causing the behaviors. These can include earaches, headaches, toothaches, sinusitis, gastritis, ulcers, etc. A comprehensive medical history and physical examination are mandatory to rule out other reasons for the behavior. Along with the medical assessment, parents will be asked to complete a checklist to aid in diagnosis. These checklists along with clinical observations will determine if a child has autism.
If it is determined your child has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, the next step is to work with your physician, educational team, therapists, and family members on a plan. There is still much to be discovered about children with Down syndrome who are dually diagnosed with autism.
*Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder phenomenology in genetic disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis - PubMed (nih.gov)
- Autism Society of America
Improving the lives of all with autism
- Autism Speaks
An organization with the goal to change the future for all who struggle with autism spectrum disorders
- Down Syndrome-Autism Connection
An organization committed to providing education and support to individuals facing the unique challenges caused by co-occurring Down syndrome and autism
- National Association for Dual Diagnosis
An association for persons with developmental disabilities and mental health needs.
- When Down Syndrome and Autism Intersect. Froehike, R.N., Zaborek, Robin. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House. (2013)
Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Look at What We Know. Capone, G. (1999)
DS-ASD: Review, Update, and the Future of the Dual Diagnosis. Olsen, D. Peterson, M., Stukenholtz, B., Talib, N. (2021)