Understanding Health and Behavioral Challenges
People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) commonly require medical help for various health issues aside from their ASD symptoms. Properly distinguishing between ASD symptoms and other health conditions is crucial for effective treatment. Here are some common co-occurring health challenges:
About 1 in 5 people with autism also have epilepsy. Characterized by seizures due to abnormal neural activity, epilepsy requires immediate intervention during an episode. Caregivers should clear the surrounding area of hazardous objects and position the individual on their side to ensure an open airway. Diagnosis usually involves brain scans, and anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are commonly prescribed for management.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
50% to 70% of people with ASD also have ADHD. This can affect focus, memory, and organizational skills. People with ADHD often find it hard to sit still and feel a need to immediately act on their desires, causing challenges in everyday life. Medication is often prescribed to help control hyperactivity and impulsivity.
16% to 18% of individuals with ASD also have Down Syndrome. When a person has both, learning to talk might take longer, and they could react strongly to loud sounds or small changes. But they usually like being around people more than those who only have Autism. They may also need extra time to understand new things. Down Syndrome can’t be cured because it’s caused by a difference in chromosomes. However, starting early intervention can make a big difference in the person’s life.
Among children with ASD, the likelihood of experiencing gastrointestinal issues is eight times higher than those without ASD. Symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain can often be inferred by behaviors like back arching, abdominal pressing, or teeth grinding. Despite debates on the cause—whether it’s restricted diets, gut flora, or other factors—eating easily digestible and unprocessed foods can alleviate discomfort.
According to the CDC, around 38% of children with ASD also exhibit intellectual disabilities, with an additional 24% displaying borderline intelligence levels. Given that social, cognitive, and language skills do not develop in isolation, distinguishing between ASD and intellectual disabilities is complex. Expert diagnosis is imperative for accurate assessment.
More than half of kids with autism have a hard time falling asleep or don’t sleep deeply. This can make it tough for them to focus and handle their emotions, making daily life more challenging. Abdominal pains, sensory problems, and stress often contribute to these sleep troubles. Setting a regular bedtime routine and making the sleep space comfy can be helpful.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Roughly 17% of individuals with ASD also have OCD. However, distinguishing between the two can be challenging due to the common characteristic of repetitive behaviors. The key difference is that people with OCD don’t want to engage in compulsive actions and find them distressing, while those with ASD may voluntarily engage in repetitive behaviors to reduce anxiety.
Sensory abnormalities are so prevalent in people with ASD that they’re even part of diagnostic criteria. While some may be hypersensitive, avoiding certain sensory inputs, others may be hyposensitive, actively seeking sensory stimulation. Treatment for hypersensitivity involves minimizing stimuli like noise and smell, whereas for hyposensitivity, using sensory-stimulating toys or items can be beneficial.