The CDC confirms that children who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder are more likely to have gastrointestinal disorders than the general population. This means that children with ASD may be more likely to face chronic constipation, frequent diarrhea, or acid reflux. GI problems can also put children at risk for not getting the nutrition they need, if their appetites are affected.
Any one of these problems can cause young children serious discomfort, which can lead to sleeping problems, an increase in acting out, and trouble with feeding. Young children with language delays, which are common in children with ASD, may have trouble communicating their discomfort. This can make children feel even more frustrated, and can lead clinicians to be delayed in diagnosing GI problems.
Why are GI problems more common in children with ASD?
Some small studies suggest that the increase in GI in children with ASD may be associated with differences in the bacteria in gastrointestinal tracts, but more studies are needed to confirm this link.
What do I do if I think my child has GI problems?
Baby’s doctor is a great person to start by talking to about your concerns. They’ll be able to examine them for underlying causes of GI problems, and may be able to make recommendations about what to do next.
For some GI problems, the best way to manage them can be to look for possible triggers in your child’s diet. You may start by keeping a food journal to look for the cause, or by experimenting with excluding common irritants.