Blog What Is The Difference Between Autism And Down Syndrome?

What Is The Difference Between Autism And Down Syndrome?

Since you are reading this article, I suppose you might know someone already with Autistic or down syndrome or even both. 

Then you need to know how to interact or deal with people with either or both autism or down syndrome. These are both severe and lifelong disorders. You might see some similar characteristics, but they are not the same. But since you asked, “what is the difference between autism and down syndrome.”Let’s get to that.


Understand The Conditions: Autism And Down Syndrome

Even though there are a few similarities between autism and down syndrome, the difference between autism and down syndrome are much more. 

They are totally different types of disorders developing from different parts of the body. So few of the physical features might look the same, but the underlying conditions are different. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder

ASD is a neurological disorder that affects communication and behavioral skills, and social interaction. People with autism have a wide range of characteristics and traits that are very different. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) has estimated that out of 44, at least 1 child suffers from autism. Doctors are able to identify symptoms of Autism by proper analysis and observing the child’s behavior and medical history. 

It is possible to detect autism in a kid as old as 2 years. But some people are not identified till they are adults. You can’t detect whether someone has autism just by looking at them unless you analyze them. 

Down Syndrome

Unlike a neurological condition like Autism, Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition. In the US, DS is the most common genetical disorder, affecting 1 out of 700 babies. 

With the help of a laboratory test called Karyotyping, you can check whether your chromosomes have signs of DS or not. 

A doctor can identify signs of DS before the baby is born with prenatal Karyotype tests. Or after birth, through a simple blood test, the result can be determined. 

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Causes Of Both Autism And Down Syndrome

There are a lot of things that can cause autism and down syndrome, so let’s analyze each of the causes separately. 

We have established that autism is a neurological disorder, so let’s find out the causes of autism.

  • Autism can occur purely based on the genetics of the parents, gene mutation, and also family history.
  • There is certain environmental exposure during pregnancy, like bacteria and pesticides. Or some distress or trauma, like lack of oxygen supply.
  • Even biological factors such as inflammation or some kind of infection during pregnancy

Well, on the other hand, the reason for down syndrome is purely chromosome related. And it occurs mostly in mothers above 35 years old. 

There are practically three types of Down Syndromes, which are,

  • Transactional Down Syndrome- This type of down syndrome happens when a whole extra copy or a piece of chromosome 21 gets attached to one different chromosome.
  • Trisomy 21- Every single cell has three copies of chromosome 21.
  • Mosaic Down Syndrome- When some cells have 3 of the chromosome 21 copies, some only have 2 copies. 

Symptoms of Both Autism and Down Syndrome

Even though Autism and down syndrome are quite different as disorders, there are few characteristics that they share. But mostly, they are different. 

While people with autism are very introverted and keep to themself, they don’t like to mix with other people. But people with Down syndrome are totally the opposite; they are very social and like to hang around with people. 

Since autism mainly affects communication and language development, they don’t learn how to speak. Even if they do, then lose of language is the ultimate result. 

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Difference Between Down Syndrome And Autism

AutismDown Syndrome
No or minimum use of gestures.They use symbols and sign gestures.
Can act as if others are inanimate things.Try copying others.
They are all about parallel play.They are more into joint play.

Here are the characteristics that are shared by both DS and ASD.

  • Repetitive Play.
  • Less responsive to their mane.
  • Prefers a routine.
  • A typical eye contact.
  • Expressive Language differences.
  • Sensory Differences.
  • Challenging Behaviour.
  • Anxiety.
  • Reduced Reciprocal Conversation.
  • Developmental Differences.

It should be noted that autism doesn’t affect any physical appearance. But on the other hand, down syndrome causes physical appearance to change. These changes are as follows.

  • Small Head.
  • Upward slanted Eyes.
  • Small ears and mouth.
  • Short neck with extra skin at the back.
  • Reduced muscle tone.
  • White spots on the iris of each eye.
  • Hands that are wide and short with shorter fingers.
  • Flat facial features.

Treatments Of Down Syndrome And Autism

There is no medicinal help for both down syndrome and autism. For down syndrome, the treatments are customized to the needs of the individual. The treatment for both down syndrome and autism are similar but with different objectives in mind. 

For autism, the focus is more on speech therapy and other social training skills. Other people might want more physical therapy or academic help. But for down syndrome, the focus is more on language pronunciation. 

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For both ASD and DS individuals, there is a high chance that they will develop other medical conditions.

For Autism:

  • Metabolic differences
  • Gastrointestinal Issues
  • Seizures
  • Pain Threshold Differences
  • Sleep Disorders

For Down Syndrome:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Constipation
  • Obesity
  • Leukemia
  • Congenital Heart Defects
  • Hearing Loss
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Dementia
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Hip Issues
  • Infection Susceptibility
  • Cataracts and poor vision

Frequently Asked Questions!

People have been asking a few of the following questions as well, for their better understanding.

Q1. How Common Is Autism And Down Syndrome?

Both autism and down syndrome is fairly common among kids, with mild to severe symptoms. 

Q2. Is Aspergers The Same As Down Syndrome?

No, people with Asperger’s and autism normally try to avoid any human interaction, whereas people with down syndrome like social interactions. 

Q3. Which One Is Worse, Autism Or Down Syndrome?

It is difficult to say which one is worse, as both have their pros and cons. But considering, down syndrome has more additional health issues linked to it.

Wrapping Up!

Know that you know the difference between autism and down syndrome, and you can be well informed now. Know you can focus your research on care for your loved one more specifically. 

Hopefully, this article was helpful for your needs, and I am able to clear any doubt you had regarding the difference.

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