National Visit: A Case Study 

According to the American Psychological Association, about 1 in 100 Americans are diagnosed with Schizophrenia. About 1 in 59 Children is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. In a study published by the Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology journal, between 2.6%-4.4% of people who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder are also diagnosed with Schizophrenia. While a relatively low percentage, it is not uncommon to see both diagnoses suspected as co-existing at a higher rate. NY START and National START consultants, Jill Hinton and Dr. Laurie Charlot, recently explored some of the reasoning behind these differential diagnoses and what teams can do to ensure appropriate diagnoses and treatment.

People who are diagnosed with Autism may all present differently, because of the wide spectrum. However, most people experience difficulty with social interactions, emotional recognition and communication deficits; they may experience higher levels of anxiety, repetitive thought patterns and may display restrictive or repetitive behaviors. 

Schizophrenia is often associated with positive symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions. However, there are also negative and cognitive symptoms associated with schizophrenia. Negative symptoms include flat affect and reduced speaking. Cognitive symptoms include poor executive functioning and poor working memory. Schizophrenia usually onsets in late teen to mid-twenties. 

Due to symptomology, it is possible to convolute presentations, such as an individual who has deficits in emotional recognition with someone displaying a flat affect. Teams should carefully consider developmental and trauma history to determine if symptoms might more closely align with an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis or if concerns developed later in life that are distinct of core Autism Spectrum characteristics.