What Other Disorders May My Autistic Child Have?
Autism is rarely a lonely disorder, often dragging a few other social-behavioral problems into the mix. When one looks at the diagnoses of autistic individuals around the world, there are usually 2-5 different labels that are placed over their heads. While it is a good thing to be able to identify all the possible disorders one might have their daily lifestyle hampered by, I find that too many diagnoses just complicate the situation and confuse the caregivers.
Autism in itself is a genetic disorder. Multiple genetic markers have been attached to the risk of being born on the spectrum, including:
- AMT, a gene associated with nonketotic hyperglycinemia and marked by severe seizures as well as infant death
- PEX7, which when mutated can cause metabolic and bone abnormalities, cataracts, severe epilepsy and early death
- SYNE1, a gene associated with brain malformation, severe motor and muscle problems, as well as the possibility of bipolar disorder
Twin studies are used to study the genetic link, as well as the prevalence rates of different disorders. With such studies concerning autism, it was found that there is up to a 95% chance that both will be on the spectrum if identical, and up to 31% chance if they are fraternal.
Autism spectrum disorders are now recognized to occur in up to 1% of the population. They are a major public health concern because of their early onset, lifelong persistence, and high levels of associated impairment. At the moment, Australia has pioneered the ability to detect autism from the ripe age of 12 months old. Countries like Poland, Korea, Japan, and Bangladesh are having their health care professionals trained in using the techniques from Australia to identify autism from earlier on, 300 doctors have already been trained in China, and 10,000 children between the age of 12 and 24 months have already been checked. Unfortunately, when the risk of having an autistic child is too great, parents can choose to abort their male children in Australia as well, according to a bill passed a few months ago.
According to the Journal of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiartry, a study looking at 112 ten- to 14-year old autistic children assessed for other child psychiatric disorders (3 months' prevalence), found that DSM-IV diagnoses for childhood anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, oppositional defiant and conduct disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, tic disorders, trichotillomania, enuresis, and encopresis were identified. Usually, when one disorder also comes with a myriad of others on its tail, we call it comorbidity, meaning that two or more exist at the same time. In this case, the numbers were rather interesting. What the study found was that:
- 70% of participants had at least one comorbid disorder
- 41% had two or more comorbid disorders
- 29.2% had social anxiety disorder
- 28.2% had attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
- 84% of this with ADHD had a second comorbid disorder as well.
Other examples of comorbidity include:
- 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry claims that 30% of those with bipolar I disorder also have ASD.
- A 2014 study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders stated that adults with ASD in their lifetime suffered from a higher burden of psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder and multiple anxiety disorders
- Another study from 2011 states that 39.6% of young people with ASD had at least one comorbid DSM-IV anxiety disorder, the most frequent being specific phobia (29.8%), followed by OCD (17.4%) and social anxiety disorder (16.6%)
If you have a child on the spectrum, chances are that they will also be diagnosed with 1 or more other disorders which have connections to the autistic traits the children portray regularly.
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