Comorbidity of autistic spectrum disorders in children with Down syndrome

Dev Med Child Neurol. 1999 Mar;41(3):153-8. doi: 10.1017/s001216229900033x.


The aim of the study was to identify the comorbidity of autistic spectrum disorders in a population of children with Down syndrome (DS). All children with DS within a defined population of South Birmingham were identified. The Asperger Syndrome Screening Questionnaire and the Child Autism Rating Scale were completed and diagnosis made according to ICD-10 criteria following interview and observation. Thirty-three of 58 identified children completed the measures, four of whom received a diagnosis of an autistic spectrum disorder. This is equivalent to a minimum comorbid rate of 7%. The questionnaire items concerning social withdrawal, restricted or repetitive interests, clumsiness, and unusual eye contact were associated with an autistic disorder. Of the remaining 29 participating children, 11 also displayed marked obsessional and ritualistic behaviours. The comorbid occurrence of autism and DS is at least 7%. It is important that these children are identified and receive appropriate education and support. A full assessment of social, language, and communication skills and behaviour is crucial, particularly in children with DS who appear different from other children with DS. Potential mechanisms accounting for this comorbidity are discussed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autistic Disorder / complications*
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Down Syndrome / complications*
  • Down Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / complications
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Surveys and Questionnaires