Autistic Disorders

Autism is diagnosed in 5-10% of people with Down syndrome, compared to only 0.13% of the general population. Once again, autism (or autistic spectrum disorder, as it is also called) can be quite difficult to identify in adolescents with Down syndrome. Autism involves impairments across three areas: social interaction, communication, and behavior. Down syndrome also impacts the teen’s development in these three areas, making diagnosis tricky. Still, unusual behaviors, social interactions, or communication issues should be discussed with the health care provider.

Once a diagnosis of autism is made, nurses can be instrumental in obtaining behavioral services for the adolescent and family. When medications are used to treat the disorder, it’s important to monitor both therapeutic effects and undesirable side effects. Since teens with autism may require more supervision and direction from parents, respite care for the family may be even more necessary than usual.

Autism is more common in people with Down syndrome than it is in the general population, and behavioral services or respite care may be very helpful.