The Genetic Ties between Schizophrenia and Autism


Autism and Schizophrenia, though separate diagnostic entities, share some common clinical features.

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The developmental disorders include communication deficiency, motor development delays and social difficulties that have a similarity to those seen in autism-related disorders.

Recent studies suggest there are deeper relations in biological and clinical links between schizophrenia and autism. Nevertheless, the question of overlap between the two dates back to as early as 1943.

The difference in opinion between the two continued to remain unclear for more than three decades until the DSM-II was involved.

Fast forward to 1971, when renowned scientist kolvin2 conducted intensive research that briskly included distinctions between schizophrenia and autism. Thus, the two disorders were categorised as separate entities in DSM-III.

MUST READ: Is Autism a Psychological Disorder

The individual’s age plays a critical role in distinguishing autism symptoms from the early onset of schizophrenia symptoms. Further, the disorder symptoms are treated differently.

The schizophrenia symptoms are considered to develop at an increased rate in autistic individuals. However, children with Childhood Onset Schizophrenia (COS) have high morbid rates of developmental abnormalities.

Childhood Onset Schizophrenia (COS) is an onset of psychotic behaviour that usually occurs before an individual attains the age of 13. COS is considered as rare and it is an aggravated level of schizophrenia.

Recent studies have shown higher rates of the disorder that are preceded by ASD-related disorders.

The frequency and severity of the pre-psychotic disorders were first described by Kolvin, who made an intricate observation in motor development, social relatedness and communication.

These were found in about 28% to 55% of the autistic children. The observations were further seen to be replicated in multiple studies.

Looking back, the studies of young kids being diagnosed with schizophrenia reveal notable delays in visual motor coordination since the days of their early childhood. Further, the children were seen to have patterned repetitive movements, utterances and postures.

These findings suggest abnormalities of frontal and temporal lobes as seen by the language disabilities and early motor behavioral changes.

Nevertheless, the disorders were unique and distinct, though they were seen to have similar clinical features. For instance, social withdrawals, difficulties in making eye contact and communication impairments are seen in individuals with autism and schizophrenia.

A Case Study

David, a 14-year-old boy, had a successful autism diagnosis and was brought to Dr. Frazier when he was 8 years old. Observations revealed the diagnosis had been initially made when he was 27 months old and was subsequently reconfirmed by notable experts in the field of autism in later years.

Although David received autism treatments and showed subsequent improvements, he continued showcasing atypical behaviour. The child was referred to Dr. Frazier due to disturbing pre-occupational behaviors that had an unusual theme.

David was found to be emotionally unstable and he had difficulties regulating his mood and was seen to be immersed in his other world.

He had no real-life friends and only enjoyed time with his imaginary friends. He was observed to be tortured by some auditory hallucinations and recalled someone was disturbing him.

After the child had his diagnosis changed to schizophrenia, his thoughts were found to be gradually becoming more linear. Nevertheless, he was able to engage in his schoolwork after the appropriate diagnosis.

The Genetic Ties between Schizophrenia and Autism
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The Genetic Ties between Schizophrenia and Autism
A successful case study of Schizophrenia and Autism
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