There are many conditions that can be present alongside autism spectrum disorders, such as fragile X syndrome and epilepsy. About 10–15% of autism cases have an identifiable Mendelian (single-gene) condition, chromosome abnormality, or other genetic syndrome, and ASD is associated with several genetic disorders. However, autism and other autism spectrum diagnoses, including Asperger syndrome, are diagnosed strictly as a cognitive disability, as a brain disorder that begins in early childhood, persisting throughout adulthood, and affecting three crucial areas of development: communication, social interaction and creative or imaginative play.
Other present conditions may include:
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD):
These children find it difficult to sustain focussed attention and are impulsive, disorganised and socially clumsy.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):
A term used interchangeably with the above, where the child is very active or fidgety.
Defined by the Foundation as “an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement”. Other names for this condition are ‘clumsy child syndrome’ and ‘developmental co-ordination disorder’. Children with dyspraxia have difficulty controlling and co-ordinating conscious patterns of movement. They may have difficulties with tying shoe laces, handwriting, riding bicycles and other gross motor activities.
Verbal Dyspraxia/Articulatory Dyspraxia:
Are interchangeable terms used when the child has difficulty speaking, although there is no damage to muscles or nerves. A child with verbal dyspraxia may have difficulty producing individual sounds as well as putting together the sounds to make words, phrases and sentences.
Fragile X Syndrome:
A genetic condition. Diagnosis is established by a DNA or Chromosome test. Fragile X is the most commonly inherited cause of learning disability.
The 1996 Education Act defines learning difficulties as when a child:
- has significantly greater difficulty in learning than most other children of the same age or;
- has a difficulty, which prevents him/her from using ordinary school facilities.
Learning difficulties can be “specific” in that they affect only one area, like sequencing, memory, visuo-spatial skills, etc and include the pattern commonly known as dyslexia.
When a child is in the bottom 2% for their learning it is considered a ‘disability’ rather than a difficulty. Learning disabilities are often divided into mild, moderate (MLD) or severe (SLD).
Some people with ASD may be hyperlexic, this means they may have a good ability to decode print but may not understand the meaning of what they are reading.