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Article
Publication date: 5 July 2021

Michelle Heyman, Megan Ledoux Galligan, Giselle Berenice Salinas, Elizabeth Baker, Jan Blacher and Katherine Stavropoulos

Professionals working with community populations are often presented with complicated cases where it is difficult to determine which diagnosis or diagnoses are appropriate…

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Abstract

Purpose

Professionals working with community populations are often presented with complicated cases where it is difficult to determine which diagnosis or diagnoses are appropriate. Differentiating among neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and intellectual disability can be a complex process, especially, as these disorders have some overlapping symptoms and often co-occur in young children. This series of case studies aims to present commonly overlapping symptoms in children who present to clinics with developmental concerns.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper presents three case studies that were completed at a free community ASD screening clinic in Southern California.

Findings

The case studies have common presenting behaviors and symptoms (e.g. social communication difficulties) that often co-occur across diagnoses; explanations for the final diagnoses are given in each case.

Research limitations/implications

Conclusions from these three cases cannot generalize to all children being seen in clinics for neurodevelopmental concerns.

Practical implications

This series of case studies highlights commonly overlapping symptoms in children who present for differential diagnosis with social and/or behavioral concerns. Implications for educational placement and intervention are discussed.

Social implications

These cases highlight the challenges involved in the differential and dual diagnostic process for young children with developmental concerns. Diagnostic considerations can affect later educational placement and opportunities for socialization.

Originality/value

This series of case studies provide practical information for clinicians about how to effectively differentiate between commonly occurring neurodevelopmental disorders, particularly given recent changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM-5).

Article
Publication date: 21 February 2020

Ann Marie Martin, Katherine Stavropoulos and Jan Blacher

Historically, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were sometimes diagnosed with schizophrenia or major psychosis. Although significant advancements in the process of…

Abstract

Purpose

Historically, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were sometimes diagnosed with schizophrenia or major psychosis. Although significant advancements in the process of differential diagnosis have been made since 1950s, there still exists a problematic delay in diagnosis due to overlap of symptoms. Negative symptoms of schizophrenia can mimic the social difficulties and stereotyped behaviors characteristic of ASD, whereas positive symptoms of schizophrenia can be perceived as restricted and repetitive behaviors, complicating the diagnostic process. The purpose of this paper is to present two clinical cases that highlight the complexities in differential diagnosis of early psychosis, schizophrenia and ASD.

Design/methodology/approach

Two females, 14 and 16 years of age, were referred to a free screening clinic in Southern California to be assessed for possible ASD. Both females were referred because of the presentation of restricted and repetitive behaviors and social communication difficulties. Both females and their families were administered a battery of measures to ascertain the youths’ cognitive functioning, adaptive living skills and severity of autism-related behaviors.

Findings

The 14-year-old presented with early-stage (prodromal or at-risk mental state) psychosis; 16-year-old met criteria for schizophrenia. Both were referred to clinics specializing in treatment for psychosis and/or schizophrenia. Neither met criteria for ASD.

Originality/value

More published studies are needed on the overlap of symptoms between ASD and schizophrenia to help prevent diagnostic overshadowing of autistic symptoms and promote treatment during the early stages of psychosis. This is particularly important given the strong evidence that early treatment for psychosis improves social, cognitive and functional outcomes.

Details

Advances in Autism, vol. 6 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2056-3868

Keywords

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