This page is designed to answer the following questions:
- 5.2. Describe other conditions that may co-occur with autism. (Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Autism, Introduction to Autism)
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In the previous section, we looked at how learning disabilities and mental health issues are common co-occuring conditions for individuals with autism, however there are also some other conditions that are prevalent in autistic people. These include:
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): ADHD is characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. There is a high rate of co-occurrence between autism and ADHD, and the two conditions can interact in complex ways.
- Dyslexia: This learning difficulty affects reading and related language-based processing skills. Individuals with dyslexia may struggle with reading fluently, spelling, writing, and sometimes speaking.
- Epilepsy: Individuals with autism are at a significantly higher risk of developing epilepsy than the general population. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures. The seizures can vary from brief and nearly undetectable to long periods of vigorous shaking. The reasons for the high rate of co-occurrence are not fully understood, but it’s likely due to underlying neurological differences.
- Dyspraxia (or Developmental Coordination Disorder): Dyspraxia is a condition affecting physical coordination and movement. Individuals with dyspraxia often struggle with tasks that require fine motor skills, such as writing, and gross motor skills, like running or jumping. They may also have difficulties with speech and language, thought organization, and sensory processing. Dyspraxia is more common in individuals with autism than in the general population.
- Insomnia: Sleep problems are common in people with autism, with insomnia being one of the most frequent issues. Individuals may struggle with falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking too early. This can be due to various factors, such as anxiety, difficulty with transitions (like transitioning to bedtime), or increased sensitivity to environmental factors like light or noise. Poor sleep can exacerbate other symptoms of autism, such as difficulties with attention, behavior, and mood regulation.
- Hyperlexia: Hyperlexia is a syndrome characterized by an intense fascination with letters or numbers and an advanced reading ability at a young age. While it’s not a disorder in itself, it’s often observed in children with autism. Although children with hyperlexia can read earlier and more fluently than their peers, they often struggle with comprehension and have significant difficulties with verbal communication, social interactions, and sensory processing.