How to Think About Autism in a Child With a Developmental Disorder

Tips on how to Suppose About Autism in a Youngster With a Developmental Dysfunction


Half 1 of this put up summarized three diagnoses: Mental Incapacity (ID), Autism spectrum dysfunction (ASD), and World developmental delay (GDD). Right here, we talk about a number of the similarities and variations between them, and the way clinicians determine whether or not a toddler ought to be recognized with one, the opposite, or each.

Diagnostic Choices

You will need to word {that a} important proportion of people with ASD have co-occurring GDD/ID (prevalence charges differ from 30 to 80 p.c). Due to this fact, clinicians ought to contemplate whether or not a toddler with ASD might have co-occurring ID.

Once I see kids in our clinic, I attempt to separate ASD and ID/GDD by contemplating the kid’s “psychological age” (e.g., their psychological age equal primarily based on cognitive talents** and adaptive expertise), after which take a look at their social-communication expertise via that lens. Standardized cognitive checks and adaptive expertise questionnaires have “age equivalence tables” which assist clinicians perceive the “age equal” for a given youngster’s efficiency.

Case Research

For instance (word: this can be a fictional situation not primarily based on anyone individual), let’s say I see a 6-year-old youngster named Chris. Chris’ IQ falls beneath 70, and the standardized check guide notes that his efficiency is equal to that of a 3.5-year-old youngster. Mother or father questionnaires about his adaptive expertise present the same sample—his adaptive expertise are across the 3-year-old stage. This data leads me to consider that he seemingly has ID.

Nonetheless, his dad and mom are involved about potential ASD since his social-communicative expertise are delayed and he shows some uncommon pursuits and physique actions. Based mostly on this data, I ought to take a look at Chris’ social-communicative expertise from a 3-3.5-year-old lens when contemplating whether or not he may meet the diagnostic standards for ASD. That’s, I ought to anticipate his social-communicative expertise to appear like these of a 3-3.5-year-old since that’s his approximate “psychological age.”

Most 3 to 4-year-old kids can discuss previous and future occasions, request, give data when requested, and provoke conversations. Nonetheless, they’re much less in a position to show expertise anticipated from a 6-year-old, together with using metaphors/sarcasm/non-literal language, displaying a wider vary of emotions, and understanding the wants of the listener in conversations. Chris’s social-communicative expertise are seemingly delayed in comparison with his chronological age resulting from his ID. It’s my job, subsequently, to find out whether or not his social-communicative expertise are delayed in comparison with his psychological age (e.g., if they’re beneath what can be anticipated for a 3-3.5-year-old youngster) or not.

If his social-communicative expertise are roughly what can be anticipated for a 3-3.5-year-old youngster, I’m unlikely to diagnose Chris with ASD, and would solely diagnose him with ID. Equally, if his pursuits are uncommon or immature for a 6-year-old, however are normative for a 3-3.5-year-old, that aligns with my expectations given his ID. Additional, though it’s unusual for a 6-year-old to show repetitive physique actions (e.g., clapping, leaping, and spinning when excited), these behaviors are extra frequent in a 3-3.5-year-old.

If, nevertheless, Chris’ social-communicative expertise had been considerably beneath what can be anticipated for a 3-3.5-year-old youngster (e.g., his speech was restricted and/or repetitive) and he was displaying restricted and/or repetitive pursuits (e.g., if he had been solely lining up blocks fairly than taking part in with them), I’d be extra prone to diagnose him with each ID and ASD.


You will need to bear in mind the next when contemplating whether or not a toddler has ASD, ID/GDD, or each:

  1. Kids with ID/GDD will typically have delayed social communicative expertise. ID/GDD is outlined (partially) by delays in a number of areas of mental and adaptive functioning, which incorporates social expertise. Due to this fact, clinicians shouldn’t robotically assume a toddler has ASD and ID just because the kid has delayed social communication expertise.
  2. Maintaining a toddler’s “psychological age” in thoughts is essential, because it has implications for the right way to interpret particular behaviors. For instance, toddlers and younger kids usually soar up and down and clap their fingers repeatedly when they’re excited, or insist on particular routines or rituals for bedtime/tub time. These behaviors are usually not thought of “restricted and/or repetitive” at such a younger age and wouldn’t essentially be interpreted as indicators of ASD. Nonetheless, as kids become old, these behaviors are much less frequent and could also be interpreted as “pink flags” for ASD resulting from their restricted and/or repetitive nature. Due to this fact, if a clinician is evaluating an 8-year-old youngster whose psychological age is nearer to three years outdated, the clinician ought to interpret behaviors in response to age expectations for a 3-year-old.
  3. A considerable proportion of kids with ASD have co-occurring ID, however clinicians must guarantee that they’re contemplating the entire above earlier than assigning this twin prognosis.


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