The key difference between autism and cerebral palsy is that autism is a disorder that primarily affects the part of the brain corresponding with social interactions, language, and behaviour, while cerebral palsy is a disorder primarily affecting the part of the brain corresponding with motor functioning.
Both autism and cerebral palsy are disorders that mainly affect childhood. They demonstrate in a wide range of symptoms and severities in children. These are two different developmental disorders. Roughly about 7% of children with cerebral palsy also have autism spectrum disorder. However, these two disorders are not related to one another but can co-occur and affect childhood development.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Autism
3. What is Cerebral Palsy
4. Similarities – Autism and Cerebral Palsy
5. Autism vs Cerebral Palsy in Tabular Form
6. Summary – Autism vs Cerebral Palsy
What is Autism?
Autism is a disorder that primarily affects the part of the brain that corresponds with social interactions, language, and behaviour. Autism or autism spectrum disorder refers to a broad range of conditions that are characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech, and nonverbal communication. According to the Centre for Disease Control, autism can affect an estimated 1 in 44 children in the United States currently. There is not one autism condition, but many subtypes are mostly influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. For some children, autism spectrum disorder can be associated with a genetic disorder such as Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome. For others, genetic changes or mutations may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder. Moreover, researchers have also found environmental factors such as viral infections, medications, complications in the pregnancy, or air pollutants also play a role in triggering autism spectrum disorder.
Signs and symptoms of autism include abnormal body posturing, abnormal tone of voice, avoidance of eye contact, behavioural disturbances, deficits in language comprehension, delay in learning to speak, monotonous speech, inappropriate social attraction, intense focus on one topic, lack of empathy, learning disability, repeating words, repetitive movements, self-abusive behaviours, sleep disturbances, social withdrawal, unusual reactions in social settings, and using odd words or phrases. Autism can be diagnosed by using the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association. These include developmental monitoring, developmental evaluation, and comprehensive developmental screening. The treatment of autism may include behavioural management therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, early intervention, educational and school-based therapy, joint attention therapy, medication treatment (antipsychotic medications such as Abilify and Risperdal), nutritional therapy, occupational therapy, parent-mediated therapy, physical therapy, social skill training, and speech-language therapy.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a disorder that primarily affects the part of the brain that corresponds with motor functioning. It is a spectrum of disorders that affects movement and muscle tone or posture. The symptoms may include stiff muscles, variations in muscle tone, lack of balance in muscle coordination, tremors, slow writhing movements, favouring one side of the body, difficulty in walking, difficulty in motor skills, delays in speech development, learning difficulties, intellectual difficulties, delayed growth, seizures, difficulty hearing, problems with vision, abnormal touch, bladder and bowel problems, and mental health conditions. The causes of cerebral palsy include gene mutations that result in differences in brain development, maternal infections, fetal stroke, bleeding into the brain, infant infections, traumatic head injury, and lack of oxygen.
The diagnosis methods of cerebral palsy include physical examination, brain scans (MRI, cranial ultrasound), electroencephalogram (EEG), blood tests, urine tests, skin tests, and tests for vision, hearing, speech, intellect, development, movement, and other medical conditions. Furthermore, treatment options can include medications (muscle or nerve injections to treat tightening of muscles, oral muscle relaxants (baclofen), medications to reduce drooling (botox injections), physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, recreational therapy, orthopedic surgery, and cutting nerve fibres (selective dorsal rhizotomy).
What are the Similarities Between Autism and Cerebral Palsy?
- Autism and cerebral palsy are disorders that mainly affect children.
- Both are a spectrum of disorders or groups of disorders.
- They affect the brain.
- Both disorders can cause common symptoms: intellectual destabilisation, development delay, and speech and language problems.
- They are treatable conditions.
What is the Difference Between Autism and Cerebral Palsy?
Autism is a disorder primarily affecting the part of the brain that corresponds with social interactions, language, and behaviour, while cerebral palsy is a disorder primarily affecting the part of the brain that corresponds with motor functioning. Thus, this is the key difference between autism and cerebral palsy. Furthermore, autism affects 1 in 160 children worldwide, while cerebral palsy affects 1 to 4 in 1000 children worldwide.
The below infographic presents the differences between autism and cerebral palsy in tabular form for side by side comparison.
Summary – Autism vs Cerebral Palsy
Autism and cerebral palsy are disorders that mainly affect children. Autism is a disorder of the part of the brain that corresponds with social interactions, language, and behaviour, while cerebral palsy is a disorder of the part of the brain that corresponds with motor functioning. So, this is the key difference between autism and cerebral palsy.