When someone has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), they can have other conditions as well. Statistically, 3 in every 4 children with autism also have another physical or mental medical condition. This phenomenon is called “co-occurring conditions.” It is most common for any existing co-occurring conditions to present themselves during childhood, but it is also possible for conditions to present in late adolescence and adulthood as well.
The 8 Most Common Co-Occurring Conditions
- Gastrointestinal Issues
- Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Down Syndrome
- Eating Disorders
It is unclear why those with autism are statistically more likely to experience gastrointestinal issues than people without ASD, but those with autism are more likely also to have abdominal pain, bloating, chronic constipation, acid reflux, and bowel inflammation. With consistent ABA therapy, you can help your child communicate more effectively about digestive concerns and body discomforts and changes.
It is estimated that approximately 40% or more of children with autism also have issues with anxiety. In children with ASD, anxiety may present itself as increased or abnormal self-stimulatory behavior, asking the same questions over and over, or having difficulty falling asleep. It is believed that the social challenges that can come with being on the spectrum are a cause of social anxiety. ABA therapy, skill groups, and relaxation techniques are proven to be an effective support for reduced anxiety.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
While undiagnosed ADHD and ASD may look similar, it is also possible that a child can be both on the autism spectrum and have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. With both conditions, children can have a poor understanding of personal space, interrupt during conversations, and appear as if they are not listening when others speak. If you wonder if your child has ASD, ADHD, or both conditions, it is best for an expert to evaluate them and create a personalized treatment plan. ADHD can be treated with a combination of medication and applying behavioral strategies. It is also even more important to have an early diagnosis when both occur simultaneously in order to provide the help your child needs as early as possible.
Unfortunately, Depression can be common in children with ASD. The risk of depression increases as they get older and into their teenage and young adult years. In these circumstances, we see that children are more aware of their social difficulties. Signs of depression can include poor sleep habits, loss of appetite, feeling unmotivated, and heightened irritability.
Bipolar Disorder is not especially common in children with ASD. When someone has BPD, they experience cycles of emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression). People with Bipolar Disorder can benefit from both personalized therapy & mood-stabilizing medication. Your child’s healthcare professional would be able to prescribe the correct medication for someone that will support the efforts of the Solstice Behavioral Health and Consulting team.
While it is uncommon for children with ASD to have Down syndrome, it is worth noting that 40% of children with Down Syndrome are also autistic. Symptoms of Down syndrome include intellectual disability, speech and language delays, poor muscle tone, characteristic facial features, and potential hearing and vision issues, as well as a risk of congenital heart defects. The health problems associated with Down syndrome are highly treatable and the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder can be effectively addressed with ABA therapy and specialist support.
While it’s not unusual for children with autism to be picky eaters because of any sensory preferences they may have, children with ASD can also be at risk for eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. In those cases, a child’s primary health professional should be consulted for a treatment plan and should also be in communication with the professionals at Solstice Behavioral Health & Consulting in order to make any necessary adjustments & support their overall health and well-being.
Epilepsy can affect up to 30% of people with autism. Treatment for epilepsy is crucial to preventing brain damage and other injuries. Warning signs can include involuntary movements, unexplained periods of staring, confusion, and headaches. If you feel like your child may have epilepsy, it is important to consult your primary physician and possibly a neurologist to evaluate for seizure-related brain activity.
If your child is experiencing any of these co-occurring conditions or you believe that your child may be experiencing symptoms, please do not wait to find help. Our goal is to provide quality ABA therapy and related support that is proven to help the development of your child. We believe in a holistic approach and partner with parents and primary care providers to adjust our treatment plan. There is a way to provide your child with opportunities to learn, grow, and improve communication, understanding, and independence. Speak to a Solstice Behavioral Health & Consulting team member & schedule your diagnostic appointment or get more information about the programs and services available for your child.