Dual Diagnosis

Excerpt from Kennedy Krieger Institute

Parents of children with Down syndrome and autistic spectrum disorder (DS-ASD) are especially in need of tips to manage inappropriate behavior because there is so little information available about this dual diagnosis for parents or professionals. As parents, you become comfortable accommodating your child's learning style based on information about Down syndrome and your own experiences. Then the latter diagnosis, autistic spectrum disorder, is superimposed on the first. At this point many parents are overwhelmed. They feel as though all hope for modification is lost. However, if you approach your child's behavioral difficulties that are often associated with autistic spectrum from a systematic, behavioral perspective, you will feel renewed hope for not only behavioral management, but also for skill development. Read more

Excerpt from the National Down Syndrome Society

Some families do their own research and mention they think their child may have autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) along with Down syndrome. Others have no idea what may be happening. They do know it isn’t good and they want answers now. This article is for families in situations like this and other, similar ones. If your child has been dually-diagnosed with Down syndrome and autistic spectrum disorder (DS-ASD) or if you believe your child may have ASD, you will learn a little more about what that means, what we are learning through data collection, and insights to the evaluation process. Read more

Down Syndrome – Autism Connection

Our mission is to provide education and support to individuals facing the unique challenges caused by co-occurring Down syndrome and autism. Our goal is to ensure that families, teachers, and healthcare providers receive the education and support they need -- with the ultimate goal being that children and adults with DS-ASD will receive the understanding, education, medical care and opportunities they so greatly deserve. Learn more

Mental Health by Andrea Parker, LSW

“Individuals with Down syndrome are always happy.” While individuals with Down syndrome have smiles that are absolutely contagious, this statement greatly discredits the emotional intelligence of individuals with DS. Individuals with DS actually may have a wider range of emotions than other individuals (McGuire & Chicoine, 2006 p. 49). What does this mean for individuals with Down syndrome? This means they are more aware of other’s emotions and they often reflect the emotions of the others around them. However, this does not mean individuals with Down syndrome do not possess their own emotions. Individuals with DS actually express their emotions more so than individuals without it. This is extremely helpful for others to see and understand if there is a mental health concern in their loved one with Down syndrome.

Common stressors that can trigger a mental health concern in individuals with DS include; learned helplessness, lack of opportunity, lack of respect, stressful events (expected & unexpected), and grief (McGuire & Chicoine, 2006 p. 189). Learned helpless contributes greatly to a depression diagnosis due to an individual trying a task, failing, and then giving up as a result. In my work, I have seen individuals with Down syndrome continually try to complete tasks that are asked of them and when they are not successful, they give up and feel failure as a result. The feeling of failure can overflow into other areas of the individual’s life which may result in feeling depressed. A lack of opportunity can negatively impact an individual’s self-esteem because the individual may not be given opportunities that challenge them. For example, in my work I often see individuals with DS be given opportunities in the workplace that are less stimulating than the opportunities others are given. This can lead to an individual feeling inferior to his or her colleagues which can lead to a low self-esteem. A lack of respect is unfortunately something individuals with DS experience more than individuals without it. For example, I often see family members who have the best intentions make decisions for the individual with Down syndrome before even asking discussing the options with the individual with DS. When others make decisions for the individual with DS, it can lead to the person not wanting to discuss his or her thoughts or feelings because they feel their voice does not matter.

Stressful events (expected & unexpected) can impact an individual with Down syndrome in two different ways. The change to their routine feels unmanageable and the stressful event may create a feeling of loss for the person. The more an individual with DS can be prepared for a stressful event or life-change, the better they will be able to cope with the stress and loss. Grief impacts individuals with Down syndrome a little differently than others. Individuals with DS have extraordinary memories and they can often remember events better than the rest of us. This may cause them to remember memories with a loved one who passed away which may make it more difficult to grieve in a proper time frame. Grieving in a proper time frame may also be more difficult for individuals with DS due to a delayed grief response because they may need more time to process their feelings. Due to difficult or prolonged grieving, an individual may begin to experience symptoms of depression. If an individual with Down syndrome experiences these stressors or if they begin demonstrate behavior that is not normal for them, it is imperative for them to receive a mental health assessment from a qualified mental health clinician.

Mental Health Services at the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati

There are many reasons therapy can be helpful - learning to be self-compassionate, helping you learn how to better understand, learning about relationships, adjusting to life challenges, managing stress, etc.

Andrea Parker, LSW is now taking referrals for individuals 15 years and older. Sessions are offered Friday 9 AM - 3 PM at the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati (4632 Wesley Ave, Suite A Cincinnati, OH 45212). 

To schedule an appoointment, call Envision at 513.619.2945. *Envision is a certified provider for Medicaid reimbursable services.