Autism is a chameleon: What it looks like changes from one person to the next. Individual differences crop up both in its core features and in the conditions that often accompany it: depression, epilepsy, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Autism also travels with a number of rare conditions rooted in a single gene.
Autism’s diversity can complicate its diagnosis and treatment. In this special report, we explain why this diversity can also also be a strength. Studies of rare genetic syndromes such as Smith-Magenis, Angelman, Rett, tuberous sclerosis and Ehlers-Danlos are likely to pave the way to new therapies for autism.
A better understanding of epilepsy, and how best to treat it, is also likely to have positive ripple effects for people with autism: Data suggest that preventing seizures could ease autism traits. A deep dive into the nerves that control sleep, stress and heart rate also explains a lot about what it means to be autistic. And the study of how depression manifests in autistic people holds essential lessons for improving their lives.
In this special report, we explore the lessons we can learn about autism from studies of the conditions that are part of autism’s spectrum of colors.