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Similarities Between Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and Autism Dan Dubovsky MSW SAMHSA FASD Center for Excellence

Both are developmental disabilities. Both affect normal brain function, development, and social interaction. In both, the individual often has difficulty developing peer relationships. In both, there is often difficulty with the give and take of social interactions. In both, there are impairments in the use and understanding of body language to regulate social interaction. In both, there is difficulty expressing needs and wants, verbally and/or non- verbally. A short attention span is often seen in individuals with Autism and an FASD. In both, we may see an abnormal sensitivity to sensory stimuli, including an over- or under-sensitivity to pain.

Differences Between Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and Autism Dan Dubovsky MSW SAMHSA FASD Center for Excellence

FASD Autism
  • Occurs as often in males as in females
  • Occurs in males 4 times as often as in females
  • Able to relate to others
  • Difficult or impossible to relate to others in a meaningful way
  • Restricted patterns are not commonly seen
  • Restricted patterns of behavior, interests, and activities as a core area
  • Verbal communication may be slow to develop but is not commonly significantly impaired
  • Difficulty in verbal and non-verbal communication
  • Difficulties begin at birth
  • Difficulties may begin after a period of normal growth
  • Difficulty in verbal receptive language; expressive language is more intact as the person ages
  • Difficulty in both expressive and receptive language
  • Spoken language is typical
  • Some do not develop spoken language
  • Spontaneously talkative
  • Robotic, formal speech
  • Echolalia not common
  • Echolalia-repeating words or phrases
  • Stereotyped movements not seen
  • Stereotyped movements
  • Ritualistic behaviors not commonly seen
  • Ritualistic behaviors
  • Repetitive body movements not seen; may have fine and gross motor coordination and/or balance problems
  • Repetitive body movements e.g., hand flapping, and/or abnormal posture e.g., toe walking
  • Social and outgoing
  • Remaining aloof; preferring to be alone
  • Difficulty with change and transitions
  • Inflexibility related to routines and rituals
  • Can share enjoyment and laughter
  • Lack of spontaneous sharing of enjoyment
  • Can express a range of emotion
  • Restricted in emotional expression
  • Funny; good sense of humor
  • Difficulty expressing humor
  • Microcephaly more common
  • Macrocephaly more common
  • Considered a medical disorder in the ICD.  Not in the DSM-IV
  • Considered a mental disorder in the DSM-IV

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