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Catatonia in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and intellectual disability: a discussion of four cases

Huw Morgan Dunstall (Department of Intellectual Disability Psychiatry, Swansea Bay University Health Board, Bridgend, UK)
Catherine Walton (Department of Intellectual Disability Psychiatry, Swansea Bay University Health Board, Bridgend, UK)
Lance Vincent Watkins (Department of Intellectual Disability Psychiatry, Swansea Bay University Health Board, Bridgend, UK)
Andrew Bhasker Isaac (Department of Intellectual Disability Psychiatry, Swansea Bay University Health Board, Bridgend, UK)
Mohamed El Tahir (Department of Intellectual Disability Psychiatry, Swansea Bay University Health Board, Bridgend, UK)

Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities

ISSN: 2044-1282

Article publication date: 27 June 2019

Issue publication date: 4 September 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Catatonia is increasingly recognised as a comorbid syndrome of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASDs). The assessment and management of individuals with comorbid ASD and intellectual disability (ID) adds a further dimension to this already complex presentation, with few cases identified in the literature. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper presents four cases of catatonia in individuals with comorbid ASD and ID. The diagnostic challenges, response to treatment and prognosis are discussed whilst comparing with the existing literature.

Findings

A high index of suspicion is required to recognise the subtle catatonic features seen in patients with ASD and ID. Clinicians should be particularly vigilant following stressful events in young adults. The assessment of catatonia in ASDs and ID requires a pragmatic approach given the lack of suitable diagnostic tools and difficulties completing investigations. Caution is advised when using rating scales as they are not validated in ID. The mainstay of treatment is lorazepam, although responses vary.

Originality/value

The discussion of these four cases strengthens the existing literature, and highlights the implications a comorbid diagnosis of ID has on the assessment and management of catatonia in ASDs.

Keywords

Citation

Dunstall, H.M., Walton, C., Watkins, L.V., Isaac, A.B. and El Tahir, M. (2019), "Catatonia in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and intellectual disability: a discussion of four cases", Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 13 No. 5, pp. 182-193. https://doi.org/10.1108/AMHID-07-2018-0034

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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