Autism Spectrum Disorders

Research shows that there is an increased chance of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children with Duchenne. Children with ASD have severe problems in language development, social interactions, and restricted interests or repetitive behaviors. There may be a number of children who have mild symptoms or problems in these areas, but who are not severe enough to really qualify for a diagnosis of ASD. Problems with communication skills and socialization appear to be the most common features of ASD in children with Duchenne, but problems in these areas can also be due to other factors (e.g. ADHD or depression/anxiety), so it is necessary to have a careful evaluation.

Incidence of autism in Duchenne, although rare, does occur and can cause behaviors which include:

  • Severe impairment in nonverbal communication
  • Lack of social/emotional reciprocity
  • Language delay
  • Repetitive use of language
  • Lack of spontaneous make-believe play or imitative play
  • Inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines
  • Excessive fixation on parts of objects
  • Deficits in shared attention (looking where someone else is looking)

Duchenne patients with autism are less likely, however, to have:

  • Developmental regression
  • Unusual sensory interests
  • Repetitive motor mannerisms
  • Intellectual impairment

In addition, some autistic behaviors in children with Duchenne may improve with age, including:

  • Nonverbal and verbal communication
  • Interest in relationships
  • Sharing interests/enjoyment
  • Make-believe play
  • Reciprocal conversation

Children who are suspected of having an ASD or who have features associated with ASD should be assessed by a mental health or behavior professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, neurologist, or developmental pediatrician.


There are several specific interventions designed for children with ASD. The most commonly recognized of these interventions include Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Floortime, and TEACCH. Other interventions are usually problem-focused and designed to address specific problem areas.

Additional information on interventions for specific aspects of ASD can be found in other sections of the site, including:

Speak to your doctor about any concerns you may have, and use our Community Forum to seek out and share information relevant to your son’s condition.

Information in this section was contributed, in part, by James Poysky, PhD. Read Dr. Poysky’s entire document, Learning and Behavior in Duchenne (download).