Difference Between Fragile X and Autism

The key difference between fragile X and autism is that fragile X is purely a genetic condition that causes a range of developmental problems, including cognitive impairment and learning disabilities, while autism refers to a broad range of conditions (genetic, non-genetic or environmental influence) characterized by challenges with social skills, speech, nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviours.

Families and some health providers often are confused by the relationship between fragile X syndrome and autism spectrum disorder. According to the U.S centre for disease control and prevention, almost 50% of men and 16% of women with fragile X syndrome also have autism. These two disorders are different conditions that share some similarities, such as avoidance of eye contact, social withdrawal, communication difficulties, and repetitive behaviours.

CONTENTS

1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Fragile X 
3. What is Autism
4. Similarities – Fragile X and Autism
5. Fragile X vs Autism in Tabular Form
6. Summary

What is Fragile X?

Fragile X is purely a genetic condition that causes a range of developmental problems, including cognitive impairment and learning disabilities. It is a genetic condition that is caused due to a mutation in the gene known as FMR1. This gene is present in the X chromosome of humans. The FMRI gene normally produces a protein called fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP). FMRP is very important for normal brain development. Therefore, people who have fragile X do not make this protein. But people with fragile X premutation do not have a total tamp down of FMRP. Therefore, people with this fragile X premutation have changes in their FMR1 gene but usually make some of the protein. This genetic condition affects both males and females. However, females have milder symptoms than males. According to research studies, it affects 1 in 4000 males and 1 in 5000 to 8000 females in the world.

Figure 01: Fragile X

The typical symptoms are development delays, learning disabilities, social and behavioural problems. Typically, males have mild to severe intellectual disabilities while females have normal intellect or milder intellectual disabilities. Furthermore, fragile X can be diagnosed by testing the DNA of a person from a blood test. There is no specific cure for fragile X syndrome. But some treatments may help children with this condition and can manage their behavioural problems, such as special education for learning disabilities, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, behavioural therapy, and medications to control seizures and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, etc.

What is Autism?

Autism is a broad range of conditions (genetic, non-genetic or environmental influence) characterized by challenges with social skills, speech, nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviours. According to the Centres for Disease Control, U.S, autism affects every 1 in 54 children in the United States today. In 2000, the number of estimated autistic people worldwide was 1 to 2 per 1000 people. Autism is often associated with genetic, non-genetic and environmental causes. The causes include having an immediate family member with autism, genetic mutations, fragile x syndrome and other genetic disorders, being born to old parents, low birth weight, metabolic imbalances, exposure to heavy metals, history of viral infections, etc. The diagnostic tests may include DNA testing for genetic diseases, behavioural evaluation, visual and audio tests, occupational therapy screening, etc.

Figure 02: Levels of Autism

There is no cure for autism. But, some treatments can help people alleviate their symptoms, such as behavioural therapy, play therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, alternative medicines like a high dose of vitamins, chelation therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, melatonin to address sleeping issues, etc.

What are the Similarities Between Fragile X and Autism?

  • Fragile X and autism both can be due to genetic causes.
  • Both conditions affect more males than females.
  • These conditions sometimes have symptoms such as avoidance of eye contact, social withdrawal, communication difficulties and repetitive behaviours.
  • Both conditions do not have a cure.

What is the Difference Between Fragile X and Autism?

Fragile X is purely a genetic condition that causes a range of developmental problems, including cognitive impairment and learning disabilities, while autism is a broad range of conditions (genetic, non-genetic or environmental influence) characterized by challenges with social skills, speech, nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviours. So, this is the key difference between fragile X and autism. Furthermore, people with fragile X show little classic repetitive behaviour while people with autism show a broad range of repetitive behaviours.

The following infographic lists the differences between fragile X and autism in tabular form for side by side comparison.

Summary – Fragile X vs Autism

Fragile X syndrome and autism spectrum disorder are two different conditions that share some similarities, such as avoidance of eye contact, social withdrawal, communication difficulties and repetitive behaviours. Fragile X is purely a genetic condition, while autism is a more condition that is due to genetic, non-genetic or environmental causes. Thus, this is the summary of the difference between fragile X and autism.