Children with Autism experience interrealted health issues, says MU Expert
Clinicians, parents should watch for concurrent medical and psychiatric problems that affect treatment of ASD
Sept. 19, 2012
By Kate McIntyre
COLUMBIA, Mo. – One in 88 children has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A new study by a University of Missouri researcher found that many children with ASD also experience anxiety, chronic gastrointestinal (GI) problems and atypical sensory responses, which are heightened reactions to light, sound or particular textures. 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.
Micah Mazurek, an assistant professor of health psychology and a clinical child psychologist, found in her study of 2,973 children and adolescents with ASD that nearly one-fourth 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,” Mazurek said. “These children may also suffer uncomfortable GI problems that they may not be able to communicate about to adults.”
Clinicians should be aware that anxiety, GI problems and sensory sensitivity often co-occur in individuals with ASD. Effectively managing these concurrent issues may improve children’s quality of life and their responses to treatment, Mazurek said.
“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.”
This is the first study to examine the relationships among anxiety, GI problems and sensory over-responsivity in a large, nationally representative sample of children and adolescents with ASD. Participants in the study were enrolled in the Autism Treatment Network, a network of 17 autism centers throughout North America that are focused on best practices for medical treatment of children with ASD.
The study, “Anxiety, Sensory Over-Responsivity, and Gastrointestinal Problems in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders,” was published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Mazurek is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Psychology in the MU School of Health Professions and a clinical child psychologist at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Mazurek’s coauthors from the School of Health Professions include Stephen Kanne, executive director of the Thompson Center and theWilliam and Nancy Thompson Endowed Chair in Child Health in the Department of Health Psychology; and Lee Ann Lowery, director of the MU Pediatric Occupational Therapy Clinic in the Thompson Center and a clinical associate professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy. Several experts external to MU also contributed to the study.
Anxiety, Sensory Over-Responsivity, and Gastrointestinal Problems in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Department of Health Psychology and Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, University of Missouri – Columbia, 205 Portland Street, Columbia, MO, 65211, USA, email@example.com.
Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) experience high rates of anxiety, sensory processing problems, and gastrointestinal (GI) problems; however, the associations among these symptoms in children with ASD have not been previously examined. The current study examined bivariate and multivariate relations among anxiety, sensory over-responsivity, and chronic GI problems in a sample of 2,973 children with ASD enrolled in the Autism Treatment Network (ages 2-17 years, 81.6 % male). Twenty-four percent of the sample experienced at least one type of chronic GI problem (constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and/or nausea lasting three or more months). Children with each type of GI problem had significantly higher rates of both anxiety and sensory over-responsivity. Sensory over-responsivity and anxiety were highly associated, and each provided unique contributions to the prediction of chronic GI problems in logistic regression analyses. The results indicate that anxiety, sensory over-responsivity and GI problems are possibly interrelated phenomenon for children with ASD, and may have common underlying mechanisms.
The co-morbidity burden of children and young adults with autism spectrum disorders.
A retrospective prevalence study was performed using a distributed query system across three general hospitals and one pediatric hospital. Over 14,000 individuals under age 35 with ASD were characterized by their co-morbidities and conversely, the prevalence of ASD within these comorbidities was measured. The comorbidity prevalence of the younger (Age<18 years) and older (Age 18-34 years) individuals with ASD was compared.
19.44% of ASD patients had epilepsy as compared to 2.19% in the overall hospital population (95% confidence interval for difference in percentages 13.58-14.69%), 2.43% of ASD with schizophrenia vs. 0.24% in the hospital population (95% CI 1.89-2.39%), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) 0.83% vs. 0.54% (95% CI 0.13-0.43%), bowel disorders (without IBD) 11.74% vs. 4.5% (95% CI 5.72-6.68%), CNS/cranial anomalies 12.45% vs. 1.19% (95% CI 9.41-10.38%), diabetes mellitus type I (DM1) 0.79% vs. 0.34% (95% CI 0.3-0.6%), muscular dystrophy 0.47% vs 0.05% (95% CI 0.26-0.49%), sleep disorders 1.12% vs. 0.14% (95% CI 0.79-1.14%). Autoimmune disorders (excluding DM1 and IBD) were not significantly different at 0.67% vs. 0.68% (95% CI -0.14-0.13%). Three of the studied comorbidities increased significantly when comparing ages 0-17 vs 18-34 with p<0.001: Schizophrenia (1.43% vs. 8.76%), diabetes mellitus type I (0.67% vs. 2.08%), IBD (0.68% vs. 1.99%) whereas sleeping disorders, bowel disorders (without IBD) and epilepsy did not change significantly.
The prevalence of gastrointestinal problems in children across the United States with autism spectrum disorders from families with multiple affected members.
Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (M.I.N.D.) Institute, University of California at Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, CA. firstname.lastname@example.org
: To perform a large registry-based study to determine the relative prevalence of gastrointestinal (GI) problems in children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from families with multiple affected members compared with their unaffected sibling(s).
: In-home structured retrospective medical history interviews by parent recall were conducted by a pediatric neurologist. Our analysis sample included information about GI health of 589 subjects with idiopathic, familial ASD and 163 of their unaffected sibling controls registered with Autism Genetic Resource Exchange. Individuals with ASD were subgrouped into 3 autism severity groups (Full Autism, Almost Autism, and Spectrum) based on their Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised and Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale scores.
: Parents reported significantly more GI problems in children with ASD (249/589; 42%) compared with their unaffected siblings (20/163; 12%) (p < .001). The 2 most common Gl problems in children with ASD were constipation (116/589; 20%) and chronic diarrhea (111/589; 19%).
Conditional logistic regression analysis showed that having Full Autism (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 14.28, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 6.22-32.77) or Almost Autism (AOR = 5.16, 95% CI 2.02-13.21) was most highly associated with experiencing GI problems. Increased autism symptom severity was associated with higher odds of GI problems (AOR for trend = 2.63, 95% CI: 1.56-4.45).
: Parents report significantly more GI problems in children with familial ASD, especially those with Full Autism, than in their unaffected children. Increased autism symptom severity is associated with increased odds of having GI problems.