An estimated 5-10% of children with Down syndrome wii be diagnosed as also having an autism spectrum disorder.  Unfortunately there is very little information available for parents on how this dual diagnosis will affect their child.  A possible reason for this is that some autistic characteristics are ‘normal’ in a child with Down syndrome.  Another possibility is that, “…unusual patterns of development in language or behaviour were [previously] assumed to be related to severe or profound mental retardation.” (NZDSA Autumn 2004)

Families of children with a dual diagnosis will face many additional challenges, especially in the areas of communication and social skills, and can often feel isolated and without support.  Please remember our family support worker Julie Ireland is just a phone call away – 9358 3544.

Articles and Information

DS-ASD Dual Diagnosis Down Syndrome and Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Dual Diagnosis: The Importance of Dual Diagnosis and Treatment by Bonnie Patterson

More than Down Syndrome : a parent’s guide – by Joan E. Guthrie Medlen

Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder : a look at what we know – by George T. Capone

Language and Communication : The Key is Effectiveness by Patricia C Winders

Changing Behaviour and Teaching New Skills by Naomi Swiezy

Sensory Integration : Observations of Children with Down Syndrome and Autistic Spectrum Disorders by Mary Lashno


Down Syndrome and Autism Internet Information Center (DSAIIC)

The Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum listerv is a discussion list for families, parents and professionals interested in this dual diagnosis.

Autism Association of Western Australia


Pueschel, Siegfried  The Special Child : a source book for parents

Sussman, Fern  More Than Words : helping parents promote communication

Wheeler, Maria  Toilet Training the Child with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities

Zysk, Veronica  1001 Great Ideas for the Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder