Autism vs Down Syndrome

Autism vs Down Syndrome: An Overview

When it comes to the analysis of autism vs down syndrome, there are some major differences that need to be covered.

Autism vs Down Syndrome

Autism vs Down Syndrome: Autism can range from mild to severe, and people with Down syndrome can also have a wide range of symptoms and abilities. Some people with autism are able to lead relatively normal lives, while others may be severely disabled.

People with Down syndrome usually have some cognitive impairment and physical limitations, but many are able to live relatively normal lives as well.

What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder, that is a complex and lifelong brain development disability that starts to appear during early childhood. Autism impacts social interaction skills, communication skills, relationship building, and self-regulation problems.

It also causes repetitive behaviors and intellectual disability. In short, autism spectrum disorder is a condition that impacts how people recognize the world around them and how they interact with it. Autism diagnosis is usually done using the behavioral studies of the children, e.g intellectual disability.

What is down syndrome:

Whereas down syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes physical growth and developmental problems ranging from mild to serious. This genetic disorder happens when children with down syndrome with this disability are born with an extra chromosome, as chromosomes are the bundle of genes.

The body relies heavily on having the right number of chromosomes in the body, and this difference can cause the genetic condition of down syndrome. The detection of the down syndrome can be done during pregnancy using prenatal screening and diagnostic testing.

There are some major differences between the two conditions of autism vs down syndrome that will be analyzed in this article.

What is the difference between Down syndrome and autism?

1) Types:


Autism spectrum disorders cover three types of disabilities found in people, namely: autistic spectrum disorder (classic autism), pervasive developmental disorder (atypical autism), and Asperger syndrome.

Down syndrome:

Down syndrome comes under three categories: Trisomy 21, Mosaic down syndrome, and Robertsonian Translocation.

Trisomy 21 is the leading cause of down syndrome in people with 95% of cases, whereas the other two conditions or types are rare as they happen in only 5% of the cases.

2) Causes:

When it comes to the causes of autism vs down syndrome, they are basically caused by multiple causes and genetic causes (95%) respectively. When we go into detail, the following studies are laid out.


There is no single cause of autistic spectrum disorder, as it depends on many genetic, nongenetic, and environmental risk factors. It is mostly caused by certain abnormalities in brain development.

Autism can also be linked to some underlying medical conditions like fragile x syndrome, absence of enzymes, influenza multidose preparations, brain inflammation, and congenital pregnant woman infections

Down syndrome:

This disorder is caused by abnormal cell division when the person gets a partial or extra full copy of chromosome 21. This issue arises with the development of the brain and physical growth.

This disorder is a purely genetic condition and does not depend on any of the external risk factors that surround the children with down syndrome during the development.

3) Hereditary and Genetic:


Autism can be both genetic and hereditary, i.e. the factor of family history is involved when it comes autism. There are researches that are available to indicate the possibility of both of these causes for autism spectrum disorder in children.

Down syndrome:

Down syndrome is mostly genetic and in most cases isn’t inherited. Although one of down syndrome, i.e. Translocation Down Syndrome can be passed on from parent to child, otherwise this condition is mostly considered genetic in the general population.

4) Symptoms:


There are some symptoms related to autistic spectrum disorder that can be spotted in autistic children, where the children with the autistic disorder show the following autistic symptoms:

  • Lack of appropriate social interaction

  • The trouble with verbal and nonverbal or poor communication skills

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Eating abnormalities

  • Socially awkward and problems with social relatedness

  • Delay in cognitive development in some cases

  • Sensitive sensation power

  • Restricted focus of interests

  • Showing unusual reactions

  • Lack of the ability to copy gestures and actions in babies

  • Communication impairments like limited expressive language skills

  • Spoken language problems

  • Lack of emotions and smiles

  • Lack of empathy

  • Poor or no eye contact

  • Repetitive behaviors including repetitive body movements and actions

  • Repetitive motor behaviors or poor motor skills

This is the autism behavior checklist if the family members want to spot the autism symptoms by observing the child’s behavior or spotting the same symptoms in other children.

Down syndrome:

There is a major difference between the symptoms of people having down syndrome and autistic spectrum is that autistic children show behavioral signs of the condition more than the physical signs, which is opposite the case with down’s syndrome. This is the clear difference when you are trying to spot autism vs down syndrome in someone

The common symptoms associated with a child with down syndrome are following:

  • Slant up eyes with almond shape

  • Medical problems like earache, toothache, ulcers, pelvic pain

  • Characteristic facial features, e.g. a flattened face, specifically the nose’s bridge area

  • Tiny white spots on the iris of the eye

  • Vision disorder

  • Sleep disturbances caused by obstructive sleep apnea

  • Thickening of the palm and soles skin

  • Flaccid or unfirm muscles and low muscle tone

  • Immune deficiency

  • Obesity

  • Learning disabilities

  • Limited expressive language skills

5) Treatment Options:

There are several treatment options that are available for both conditions. As autism spectrum disorder is a behavioral condition, it often requires behavioral treatment, whereas down syndrome is mostly a physical condition, so it requires some early intervention and treatment programs to help people with down syndrome live productive and happy lives.

There are some therapeutic and medication treatments available to suppress the domination of both of these conditions in the lives of people.

Below are given some treatment options for people with down syndrome and an autistic spectrum disorder.


  • Social skills training

  • Applied Behavioral Therapy

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

  • Occupational Therapy

  • Speech Therapy


Although Risperidone is the only FDA-recommended and approved drug for children with autism, there are the following types of medication used and recommended in the medical community.

  • Antidepressants

  • Antipsychotics

  • Stimulants

Down syndrome:

  • Early intervention

  • Educational Therapy

  • Speech Therapy

  • Occupational Therapy

  • Exercises for the improvement of motor skills

  • Amino acid supplements for flaccid muscle problems

  • Piracetam drug

Which is more common between autism vs down syndrome?

When you make an analysis of autism vs down syndrome in terms of the prevalence among the general public, you will find that autism is more prevalent or common in people than down syndrome.

As down syndrome is mostly genetic, that is a chromosomal condition, occuring due to the presence of 3rd copy of chromosome 21, it is less common in people than autism spectrum disorder.

But autism has multiple causes, let alone the genetic cause, it is more prevalent in the general public as the leading causes include genetic, nongenetic, and environmental factors that occur during the early development of babies.

Research suggests that autism spectrum disorders appear in about 1 in 44 children, whereas down syndrome appears in about 1 in 700 children.

Are Down syndrome and autism connected?

While doing the comparison of autism vs down syndrome, it must also be analyzed whether these two are connected.

According to traditional thought, autism was considered a rare phenomenon in people with down syndrome. Whereas, recent studies indicate the fact otherwise. Studies suggest that the chances of autism in people with autism are estimated to be 10 to 25 times more in people with down syndrome, than in the general population.

In short, if you have down syndrome, there are 10 to 25 times more chances that you will also have autism.

According to Down Syndrome Research Foundation, 12% of their students have a dual diagnosis of autism and down syndrome when the previously done studies are analyzed on their students. Nevertheless, this diagnosis comes later in the children with the down syndrome than for the typical child.

According to National Down Syndrome Society, children who get the dual diagnosis can suffer from medical conditions like congenital heart disease, seizures, dysfunctional swallow, severe hypotonia, respiratory problems, and motor delay.

Wrapping Up Autism vs Down Syndrome

Concluding, the above is given a brief overview of autism and down syndrome, together with some specific aspects related to them. Some parents spot these medical conditions easily while other parents might ignore them.

But, regardless of the type of disorder, many children get affected by them and they must be taken seriously, whether it is autism vs down syndrome.

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