Conditions That May Look Like Autism, but Aren’t

Children can be misdiagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and not actually be autistic. It is concerning enough for a parent to be told their child is on the Autism Spectrum, but for a child to be misdiagnosed as having autism can cause unnecessary stress and worry for the family.

Tardive dyskinesia may lead to very serious problems, such as respiratory interference, inability to eat, oral ulcerations, and difficulty standing/walking.

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ADHD children may have impaired social interactions due to their impulsivity. They could exhibit poor eye contact as a result of their distractibility. But they are not autistic as they will start and sustain social interactions and can have back-and-forth (reciprocal) interactions.

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Some signs of autism are similar to or the same as those of other conditions. As a result, some things can be mistaken for autism. That’s a problem because using autism treatment on a person who doesn’t have the disorder probably won’t help the way it should. What’s more, someone with another health issue that looks similar, like lead poisoning, may need treatments that have nothing to do with the ones for autism.

A few brain disorders similar to autism can lead to an autism misdiagnosis. The signs and symptoms may appear to indicate ASD when in reality, another disorder is present. Keeping your child’s doctor aware of development and changes in your child is an excellent way to identify when there are autism-like symptoms, but it’s not autism.

Conditions That May Look Like Autism, but Aren’t

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Sensory or sensory processing issues: Some children are very sensitive to light, sound, or touch. Things like being hugged or hearing loud noises may upset them or cause them to stop communicating. A child with autism might do this too, but they’d have other symptoms of autism, like speech delays.

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Selective mutism as well can be mistaken for autism as a teacher may erroneously think the child is autistic. Also, typically developing children can certainly have anxiety at times. Look for a family history of anxiety.

At the Drake Institute, we understand that anxiety, stress, PTSD, autism, and other disorders can have a negative impact on daily life. If you or a family member are suffering from any of these disorders, please reach out to the Drake Institute. Simply call 1-800-700-4233 or fill out our free consultation form.

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People with Fragile X syndrome also have a number of recognizable physical features, including a high arched palate, strabismus (lazy eye), large ears, long face, large testicles in males, poor muscle tone, flat feet, and sometimes mild, heart valve abnormalities. Although most individuals with Fragile X syndrome have a characteristic ‘look’ (long face and large ears), there are some who do not have typical features.

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Social withdrawal and isolation

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Often called, sociopathy, this personality disorder is characterized by the pattern of disregarding or violating the rights of others. Individuals with an antisocial personality disorder will act against the social norms and break the rules and law resulting in reckless disregard for others. These individuals often lack empathy and are always in trouble with the law. They will lie and even practice physical violence against others. They have an underlying ulterior motive or agenda and often have experienced abuse, neglect or trauma in childhood. Individuals with autism may act against social norms; however, they do not carry an agenda or ulterior motive and do not have a history of childhood abuse or trauma.

Can we move forward with treatment even if we’re not sure what this is?
If your child has a developmental delay that may or may not be autism, treatment such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, or social skills training may still help.

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Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the child’s capacity for regulating behavior, effectively communicating, and processing information.

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What Is Autism?

While the behavioral symptoms of the conditions above may overlap with autism, they may require different or additional treatments. Seek a diagnosis and treatment plan from a qualified medical professional before starting any form of treatment. For more on common signs and symptoms of autism visit our Is It Autism? page.

As a neurodevelopmental disorder, autism can be challenging to diagnose. There are no physical differences or indications of autism. Instead, the child’s behavior, communication, and social skills are where to look for the presence of autism. If there are delays in these areas, accompanied by other signs and symptoms of autism, there is a possibility for a diagnosis of autism.

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