Related Syndromes and Disorders

Related syndromes and disorders in autism are conditions often referred to as being co-morbid, meaning they are distinct or separate medical or psychiatric diseases which may occur in some persons with autism spectrum disorder.

Read more about related syndromes and disorders and other problems that may accompany ASD.

Cornelia DeLange Syndrome

Cornelia DeLange Syndrome is a relatively rare syndrome associated with autism. Individuals with this syndrome have low birth weight, delayed growth, small stature, small head size, and distinctive facial features including this eyebrows (which usually meet at the midline), long eyelashes, short up-turned nose, and thin down-turned lips. Individuals with Cornelia DeLange Syndrome have developmental delays with the greatest area being in receptive and expressive language. Additionally, they have heightened sensitivity to touch, present behavioral difficulties including hyperactivity, short attention span, oppositional and repetitive behavior, and self-injurious behavior. Because these behavioral characteristics are similar in many ways to those present in individuals with autism, "autistic-like behaviors" are listed as an associated complication for individuals with Cornelia DeLange Syndrome. (Cornelia DeLange Syndrome Foundation, 1998)

Tourette's Syndrome

Tourette's Syndrome is an inherited neurological disorder characterized by repeated and involuntary body movements (tics) and uncontrollable vocal sounds. In a minority of cases, the vocalizations can include socially inappropriate words and phrases (coprolalia). Involuntary symptoms can include eye blinking, repeated throat clearing or sniffing, arm thrusting, kicking movements, shoulder shrugging, or jumping. Stereotyped motor movements, verbal stereotypes, such as, the repetition of words and phrases, and other mannerisms have suggested a potentially more interesting association between autism and Tourette's Syndrome. (Tourette's Syndrome Association, 1998)

Fragile X Syndrome

Early descriptions of Fragile X Syndrome focused on fully affected males and their many autistic-like features. These included: poor eye contact; language delay; preservation and echolalia; self-abuse; behavioral stereotypes (hand flapping, body rocking); sensitivity to auditory stimuli or environmental change; tactile defensiveness; preoccupation with narrow range of stimuli; and poor social relating. Prevalence rates for Fragile X Syndrome amongst individuals with autism is approximately 10 percent. (Dykens & Volkmar, 1997, pp 390+)

William's Syndrome

William's Syndrome affects about 1 in 20,000 people and is caused, in most cases, by a deletion in one of the chromosomes 7s that contain the gene for elastin. Person's with autism with William Syndrome often show a distinctive cognitive profile. Relations between William Syndrome and autism have not yet been widely studied; however, some of the maladaptive behaviors of William Syndrome may be described as "autistic-like." These include obsessive worrying, preservation, difficulties relating to peers, and body rocking and other repetitive behaviors. (Dykens & Volkmar, 1997, pp393+)

Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome occurs in approximately 1 in 800 births and is considered the most common chromosomal cause of retardation. Although rare, some epidemiological studies have found subjects with Down Syndrome and autism. Although autism is rare in persons with Down Syndrome, it should be considered in the range of diagnostic possibilities for persons with this syndrome. (Dykens & Volkmar, 1997, pp 394+) When autism affects a child with Down Syndrome the effects are quite severe, and, therefore, the autism condition must be the priority condition.

Tuberous Sclerosis

Tuberous Sclerosis affects as many as 1 in 10,000 people and is characterized by abnormal tissue growth or benign tumors in the brain and other organs such as the skin, kidneys, eyes, heart, and lungs. Autistic-like symptoms were first described in patients with Tuberous Sclerosis a decade before Kanner's classic delineation of Infantile Autism. These early noted symptoms include stereotypes, absents or abnormal speech, withdrawal, and impaired interactions. Today the Tuberous Sclerosis society suggests that approximately 60 percent of its membership have autism or autistic-like behavior or symptoms. (Bassiri, 1998, Personal Correspondence) (Dykens & Volkmar, 1997, pp 395+)

Landau-Kleffner Syndrome

Landau-Kleffner Syndrome has its onset in childhood and is characterized by acquired aphasia and seizures in association with abnormal EEG's. Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, often referred to as "acquired epileptic aphasia," may present autistic symptomotology. However, the primary symptom is represented by language regression. (Minshew Sweeney, & Bauman, 1997, pp 361+)

Sensory Impairments

Sensory Impairments. Visually and auditorily impaired individuals may also have autism. Additionally, Kluver- Bucy Syndrome (Ivey M., 1989) have symptoms similar to autism such as difficulty in receiving and processing sensory information.

Defining Symptomatology

Occasionally with autism there are certain symptoms that become defining of the individual as he/she ages. It is critical not to confuse the evolving, defining symptom as primary in nature, but rather secondary to the syndrome of autism itself. Those symptomatologies are obsessive /compulsive disorder; bipolar disorder, depressions; anxiety disorder; epilepsy; and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Disorders of Metabolism/Infections

Other forms of metabolic disorders may have autistic-like symptomotology. These include Prader-Willi Syndrome, PKU (phenylketonuria), and Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome to name a few. Additionally, there is a theory that identifies Candida yeast infection is a culpable agent in autism. (Rimland, 1988) The majority of cases of autism, however, are of unknown origin. DLH: 1999


  • American Psychiatric Association. (1994) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - IV. Washington, DC.
  • Cornelia DeLange Foundation (1998) Facing the Challenges: A Families' Guide to Cornelia DeLange Syndrome. Collingsville, CT
  • Dykens, E.M. & Volkmar, F. (1997). Medical Conditions Associated with Autism. In Cohen, D. & Volkmar, F. (Eds.) (1997) Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (2nd Edition). NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Frith, W. (1989). Autism: Explaining the Enigma. Oxford, England: Blackwell.
  • Ivey, M., Sutton, B. and Marburg, D. A Study of Autistic Children's Response to Vision, Audition, Gustation, Olfaction, Pressure, Touch, Proprioception, Vibration, and Temperature In Gilbian, James E. (1981) Autism. Springfield, Ill., Charles C. Thomas Publisher.
  • Minshew, N.J., Sweeney, J.S. & Bauman, M.L. (1997). In Cohen, D. & Volkmar, F. (Eds.) (1997) Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (2nd Edition). NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Rimland, Bernard (1988). Candida-caused autism? In Autism Research Review International Vol.2, No.2.
  • Tourette's Syndrome Association. (1998). About Tourette's Syndrome. Bayside, NY
  • Wing, L. (1997). Syndromes of Autism and Atypical Development. In Cohen, D. & Volkmar, F. (Eds.) (1997) Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (2nd Edition). NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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