It's A Spectrum


This article is in no way meant to diagnose any individual.

If your child has been diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, you have most likely asked a ton of questions, and done even more research. In this endeavor, you surely have seen "Autism" dropped all over the place, as it is listed as a common characteristic of CdLS. But what is Autism? Is it the same as CdLS? Does everyone with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome have Autism? These are questions many parents have, but a simple web search may not answer those questions. Below you will find the simplified explanations to the questions, and you are encouraged to leave comments, join the discussion, or ask questions at the bottom of the page.

What is Autism?

While many people have an idea of what Autism is, or what it "looks like," few people truly understand it. For starters, there is no such thing as "Autism Disorder." This is because Autism is a sliding scale. What does this mean? Autism affects everyone differently ranging from severely impaired to high functioning. Thus, when people say Autism, they are actually referring to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The most widely known symptoms of ASD include repetitive behaviors, trouble with social interactions, and delayed or lack of language ("Symptoms" 2013). The media in current years shows Autism off in ways to inspire people, so the uniformed eye sees a person with Autism as a genius that can build a rocket, and they feel humbled when they see their Autistic neighbor get asked to prom. However, there is much more to Autism than excelling in a certain area or overcoming social issues.

As mentioned previously, Autism is a spectrum; most of the kids and adolescents in the media are on the higher functioning end of the spectrum, which leave the other end under-represented. You may have heard of Asperger's, this is one of the highest functioning forms of Autism. Temple Grandin, Albert Einstein, and Mozart are just a few examples of historical figures who had Asperger's. What makes Asperger's special is that it highlights that individuals with Autism think in a very unique way, which allows them to be very interested in or very good at one thing, while falling behind elsewhere.

Autism Spectrum Disorder may also cause Seizure Disorders, Genetic Disorders, Pica, Sensory Sensitivity, and trouble with sleep ("Symptoms" 2013). Seizure disorders may include, but are not limited to, Epilepsy. Pica is the habit of eating non-food items. Eating things that are not food can also be related to sensory sensitivity. People with Autism perceive the world differently as they commonly have heightened senses, which may bother them at times.

Is Autism the Same as CdLS?

The short answer in no. Cornelia de Lange Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder are two very different disorders. However, they do work together in the case of Cornelia de Lange Syndrome. Many people diagnosed with CdLS display Autistic characteristics, such as the ones discussed above. When wondering if your loved one has Autism, the first thing you should do is consult a specialist, but you should know the signs to look for.

Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, while not often referred to as one, is a spectrum. This is one of the few similarities CdLS shares with ASD. Parents of children with CdLS quickly learn from their research that some kids have much more mild forms of the disorder than others do. CdLS often affects physical features such as limb abnormalities, a cleft palate, connecting eyebrows, and excessive body hair. Autism on the other hand, has no physical changes. You cannot tell by looking at someone whether they have ASD or not. CdLS, like ASD, can cause other medical issues to arise, such as Gastrointestinal Disorders.

The important thing to focus on is that having Cornelia de Lange Syndrome does not guarantee being on the Autism Spectrum, although it is common. When determining what is caused by which disorder, it is important to know how the disorders affect individuals respectively, so that you can separate them instead of thinking of them as one-and-the-same.

By: Mikayla Oko | 2017


"Symptoms." Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks Inc., 20 Mar. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.