Physical and Medical Issues
Often, there are other physical issues that accompany autism as well. Here are some of the most common:
Seizure disorders, including epilepsy, occur in almost 40 percent of those with autism. Different types of seizures can occur, and typically start in early childhood or adolescence. These seizures can range in severity.
Gastrointestinal Disorders (GI) are very common among those with autism, affecting up to 85% of children. Conditions range from chronic constipation and diarrhea to inflammatory bowel disease. These illnesses can be extremely uncomfortable and painful. As a result, this can prompt behavioral changes such as aggression and self-injury. Luckily, there are treatments that can help.
It is common for those with autism to struggle with toilet training. There are a variety of reasons for this including developmental delays (meaning that they learn new information slower), trouble communicating that they need to go, breaking routines that they have already become accustomed to, and anxiety. You will want to involve parents and guardians to come up with a system that works for the specific child and modify if needed.
Sleep problems are extremely typical for individuals with autism, effecting upwards of 80% of people, including the children that will be in your care. This has a significant impact on their daily behavior. This is another area that you will want to partner with parents on. Establishing daily communication on how the child slept the previous night can help figure out a routine that works.
Sensory Integration Dysfunction
Those with autism often have difficulty processing every day sensory information. Any of the senses can be over or under sensitive. If the child is experiencing too much input, it causes stress, anxiety, and even physical pain. The result can be withdrawal, challenging behavior, and/or meltdowns. Fortunately, there are many therapies and tools that can be used to help. We will take a look at those in just a moment.
Pica is an eating disorder in which children eat things that are not food. Children between the ages of 18 and 24 months often eat non-food items, as this is a normal part of development. However, after this period of time, eating items that are not food is atypical and should be monitored.
Individuals diagnosed with ASD can quite often carry a diagnosis of ADHD/ADD as well. In fact, researchers from Duke University Medical Center, Davis and Kollins (2012), stated that “between 30 and 50 % of individuals diagnosed with ASD also exhibit elevated levels of ADHD symptoms”. This combination can cause children to have increased social communication deficits, anxiousness. and irritability.