Skip to Main Content

CASD 7317X/CBSE 7685T Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders: Co-Morbid Features

Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders, Professor Susan Longtin

About Co-Morbid Features

Comorbidity refers to he presence of a second (comorbid) condition in association with a previous one. It is well-established that ASD co-occurs with various other developmental, psychiatric, and medical conditions. These include hyperactivity, obsessive-compulsive phenomena, self-injury, tics, and affective symptoms.  Of note, anxiety and mood problems have been frequently reported in older and more able individuals with ASD (Volkmar, 2013). In this section, we use the term “co-morbid” in a broad sense including savant skills, which can co-occur with ASD. In this section we address the following topics:

  • Medical co-morbidities
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sensory characteristics
  • Challenging behaviors
  • Savant skills


Savant Skills

"Iris" is a two-minute Sony/Action Cam film by Wilkins and McGuire. It tells the story of Iris Grace, an extraordinarily talented non-verbal child with autism.  The film addresses her early diagnosis at age three, some unusual behaviors, family concerns, and the breakthrough in finding her special interest in art. The film features several of Iris Grace’s paintings, which are sold for thousands of dollars, and the special relationship she shares with her cat,Thula.

This CNN segment, titled “Quest for Genius,”  features Kim Peek, the savant on whom the character Raymond Babbitt from the movie “Rainman” is based.  Kim is shown interviewed in the library in Salt Lake City where he lived.  The segment emphasizes his extraordinary reading skills and memory.

Challenging Behaviors


Iris Grace; role of Thula her therapy cat; discussion of sensory issues; interview with mother; 4:30

Anxiety and Depression

Class Readings: Volkmar and Wiesner

Class Readings in Volkmar and Wiesner:

V&W, (Medical) ch. 10 (Anxiety and Depression) pp. 236, 475; 440; 453-456; (Sensory) ch. 16; (Challenging Behaviors) ch. 14 (Savant Skills) p. 204.