Schizophrenia and autism are two complex neurological disorders that can often be confused due to their shared symptoms. However, it is important for parents of children with autism to understand the differences between the two and the unique challenges each presents. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, causes, treatments, and differences between schizophrenia and autism, and whether it is possible to prevent someone with autism from developing schizophrenia.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that is characterized by difficulties in communication, social interaction, and behavior. Although it is a spectrum disorder, individuals with autism often exhibit impairments in three main areas: 

Symptoms of autism can vary greatly from person to person, but some common indicators include delayed speech and language development, difficulty making eye contact or reading body language, repetitive movements or behaviors (such as hand flapping or rocking), and difficulty adapting to changes in routine or schedule. While the symptoms of autism can cause challenges in daily life, early intervention with therapies such as behavior, speech, and occupational therapy can help children improve their skills and lead fulfilling lives.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. It is often characterized by a range of symptoms that can be divided into three main categories: 

  • positive symptoms (such as delusions and hallucinations)
  • negative symptoms (such as a lack of motivation or an inability to show emotion)
  • cognitive symptoms (such as difficulty with memory or attention).

Positive symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized speech or behavior. Negative symptoms include a lack of motivation, social withdrawal, and difficulty expressing emotions. Cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia can include difficulties with memory, attention, and decision-making. While there is no known cure for schizophrenia, it can be effectively treated with a combination of medication, therapy, and support services.

How are Schizophrenia and Autism Similar?

Although schizophrenia and autism are distinct disorders with different causes, symptoms, and treatments, there are some similarities between the two. Both disorders can cause social withdrawal, difficulties with communication, and challenges in daily life. It is important to note, however, that the specifics of these shared symptoms can differ greatly between the two disorders.

Individuals with both schizophrenia and autism may struggle with sensory processing issues, which can lead to difficulties with processing sensory input such as light, sound, and touch. Additionally, individuals with both conditions may struggle with changes in routine and may resist transitions or new situations. However, the underlying causes of these issues are different between the two disorders.

How Are Schizophrenia and Autism Different?

While there are some similarities between schizophrenia and autism, the two disorders have distinct differences in their symptoms, causes, and treatments.

One major difference between the two disorders is the age of onset. Autism is typically diagnosed in early childhood, while schizophrenia often appears in late adolescence or early adulthood. Additionally, while the symptoms of autism can be relatively constant over time, the symptoms of schizophrenia can fluctuate and worsen over time.

Another key difference between the two disorders is the presence of positive symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations in schizophrenia. These symptoms are not present in autism, which is characterized more by social communication and interaction difficulties. Additionally, while individuals with autism may have difficulty with self-expression, those with schizophrenia may experience disorganized speech patterns and thinking.


Symptom ASD Schizophrenia
exaggerated speech
incoherent speech
talking to oneself
repetitive body movements
lack of body movements
repetitive behaviors
sensory sensitivities



Treatments for the two conditions also differ. While both conditions may benefit from medication and therapy, the specific medications used and the types of therapy recommended may differ between the two. 

Medications such as antipsychotics are often used to treat schizophrenia, while medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be prescribed for individuals with autism to improve mood and reduce anxiety. Therapy approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), applied behavior analysis (ABA)  and social skills training may be beneficial for those with schizophrenia and autism, respectively.

Can Autism Lead to Schizophrenia?

Although there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that autism can directly lead to schizophrenia, there are some studies that suggest that individuals with ASD may be at a higher risk of developing schizophrenia later in life. One study from Denmark found that people diagnosed with ASD were more than twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as those without ASD. Another study from the UK found that individuals with ASD were seven times more likely to develop schizophrenia than the general population.

While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between autism and schizophrenia, it is important for parents of children with autism to be aware of the potential risk and to seek professional support and intervention if they suspect their child may be at risk for developing schizophrenia.

Preventing Schizophrenia in Individuals with Autism

While it is not currently possible to prevent someone with autism from developing schizophrenia, early intervention and treatment can help to minimize the risk and improve outcomes for individuals with both autism and schizophrenia. Early intervention may include the use of medications, therapies, and other interventions to address symptoms as soon as they arise.

Additionally, providing a supportive home environment with strategies such as positive reinforcement and promoting healthy habits like regular exercise and good nutrition can help to reduce stress levels and promote overall mental health in individuals with ASD.


By understanding the differences between schizophrenia and autism, as well as the potential risks of developing schizophrenia in individuals with autism, parents and professionals can work together to create individualized treatment plans that are designed to meet the unique needs of each person with either disorder. With early intervention, support, and treatment, it is possible for those with both schizophrenia and autism to live a fulfilling and successful life.


If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.


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