Many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) also experience anxiety, chronic gastrointestinal (GI) problems and heightened reactions to light, sound or particular textures, according to a new study in the US
These problems appear to be highly related and can have significant effects on children’s daily lives, including their functioning at home and in school.
A study of 2,973 children and adolescents with ASD found that nearly 25% also had chronic GI problems, such as constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or nausea.
The results also showed that children with chronic GI problems were more likely to experience anxiety and sensory problems.
“These problems can have a very real impact on daily life. Children with anxiety may be distressed or reluctant to engage in new activities, and those with sensory problems may have trouble paying attention or participating in over-stimulating enviornments,” said researcher Micah Mazurek, who is a clinical child psychologist and assistant professor of health psychology at the University of Missouri.
“These children may also suffer uncomfortable GI problems that they may not be able to communicate about to adults.”
Doctors should be aware that anxiety, GI problems and sensory sensitivity often co-occur in people with ASD.
Managing these health issues effectively may improve children’s quality of life and their responses to treatment.
“Parents need to be aware that these problems may underlie some of their children’s difficulties, so if they notice any symptoms, they should talk to their doctors or therapists about treatment options,” Mazurek said.
“Practitioners who work with children with ASD need to be mindful that there is a pretty high rate of these problems, so if children are treated for one issue, it may helpful to screen for these additional symptoms.”
Autism is a complex developmental disability that causes problems with social interaction and communication. One person may have mild symptoms, while another may have serious symptoms.
The study was published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.