If someone asked a layperson,” what are the common issues that face a child with autism?”, many would answer issues with communication, socialization or several other matters related to the disorder. While these issues are common, gastrointestinal problems are among the most common of issues, unfortunately. These issues range from chronic constipation or diarrhea to irritable and inflammatory bowel conditions.
According to Autism Research Institute, a recent study has shown just how prevalent GI issues really are within the autism population. The study showed that 70% of the children with ASD had GI Issues compared to 42% of the children with developmental disorder other than ASD. Just like everyone else, people with autism may suffer: Gastritis, GERD, Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, constipation, Motility-based disorders or food allergies and sensitivities. Two of the more common issues involve chronic constipation and chronic diarrhea.
- Chronic Constipation – Although occasional constipation happens to all of us at some time in our lives, chronic constipation can be a serious condition. Because constipation is particularly common among children with autism special dietary restrictions or medication are regularly adhered to. Medication may be needed to keep children and teens regular.
- Chronic Diarrhea – Again, we can all relate to a bout or two of diarrhea in our lifetimes, but chronic diarrhea can be painful and difficult to deal with. Chronic diarrhea may have a number of causes including intestinal infection, immune dysfunction, inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis), irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease (gluten intolerance), food allergies, lactose intolerance, or excessive consumption of certain foods such as apple juice. Treatment for this GI problem is usually dependent upon what is causing the issue, whether it is a dietary change, infection or other cause.
As a parent you never want to believe that there may be a problem with your precious bundle of joy. If you do have an inkling that there may be an issue, however, autism experts say that you should act sooner rather than later. When it comes to autism, catching it early, ideally by the age of eighteen months, can make a huge difference. Early intervention and treatment can reduce the effects and help your child learn, grow and thrive.
As a parent, or even a caregiver, you are in the best position to spot the earliest warning signs. If you are the primary caregiver, you observe your child more than anyone else. Your observations and experiences can be invaluable when it comes to early diagnosis and subsequent treatment of autism or any of the autism spectrum disorders. The key is to educate yourself so you know what’s normal and what’s not and then trust your gut. If you think something isn’t quite right take action. Start with your pediatrician and from there ask for an evaluation or a specialists if you feel there is still a problem.
Recent research conducted by Autism Speaks confirms that appropriate screening can determine whether a child is at risk for autism as young as one year. While every child develops differently, we also know that early treatment improves outcomes, often dramatically. Studies show, for example, that early intensive behavioral intervention improves learning, communication and social skills in young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
The M-CHAT screening (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) can help you determine if a professional should evaluate your child. This simple online autism screen takes only a few minutes. The M-CHAT is validated for screening toddlers between 16 and 30 months of age, to assess risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The M-CHAT can be scored in less than two minutes. Scoring instructions can be downloaded from http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwpsy/faculty/robins.htm or www.firstsigns.org. Children who fail more than 3 items total or 2 critical items (particularly if these scores remain elevated after the follow-up interview) should be referred for diagnostic evaluation by a specialist trained to evaluate ASD in very young children.
As a parent, you don’t want to think about struggles your child may have. You really want to protect them from the harsh world around them and make everything better, easier. But, like many things in life, catching autism early (ideally by the age of eighteen months) makes a huge difference. Treatments and therapies can reduce the disorder’s effects and help your child learn, grow, and thrive. Given that 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys show signs of autism or autism-like disorders here are some of the signs to keep on your radar.
Signs and symptoms of autism vary greatly from child to child but most signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders appear in infancy and early childhood, causing delays in many basic areas of development, such as learning to talk, play, and interact with others. As with other disorders the spectrum of symptoms can vary from mild to severe.
According to Autism Speaks, the following “red flags” may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, please don’t delay in asking your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation:
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
- No babbling by 12 months
- No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
- No words by 16 months
- No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
- Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age
The M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) can help you determine if a professional should evaluate your child. Here is a link to the online screening. If you have any questions, seek the advice of your pediatrician for formal testing. Do not lose hope. There are some incredible treatments for autism that can help your child live a full and happy life.
As a parent, you bring your bundle of joy home from the hospital with the full knowledge that you will do just about anything for this tiny human who has stolen your heart. You relish in every milestone: the first smile, cooing, rolling over, crawling, walking, talking and the list goes on and on. Most likely you also saved even the smallest semblance of those early years like the first haircut, a hand-print and coloring galore. While cherishing these moments, that slip away too quickly, you may become suspicious that something isn’t quite right. As a parent, you never want to believe that your precious child has a problem. But when it comes to autism, catching it early makes a huge difference. If you have an inkling “something is up,” check out our list of things to be aware of as symptoms and early signs of autism.
For babies and toddlers there are some early signs to evaluate. Instead of noticing abnormal behaviors most parents report that they noticed the absence of normal behaviors such as:
- Doesn’t make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed)
- Doesn’t smile when smiled at
- Doesn’t respond to his or her name, or to the sound of a familiar voice
- Doesn’t follow objects visually
- Doesn’t point or wave goodbye, or use other gestures to communicate
- Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point things out
- Doesn’t make noises to get your attention
- Doesn’t initiate or respond to cuddling
- Doesn’t imitate your movements and facial expressions
- Doesn’t reach out to be picked up
- Doesn’t play with other people or share interest and enjoyment
- Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests
In older children the red flags for autism become more diverse.
- Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or what’s going on around them
- Doesn’t know how to connect with others, play, or make friends
- Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled
- Doesn’t play “pretend” games, engage in group games, imitate others, or use toys in creative ways
- Has trouble understanding or talking about feelings
- Doesn’t seem to hear when others talk to him or her
- Doesn’t share interests or achievements with others (drawings, toys)
- Speaks in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch (e.g. ends every sentence as if asking a question)
- Repeats the same words or phrases over and over
- Responds to a question by repeating it, rather than answering it
- Refers to themselves in the third person
- Uses language incorrectly (grammatical errors, wrong words)
- Has difficulty communicating needs or desires
- Doesn’t understand simple directions, statements, or questions
- Takes what is said too literally (misses undertones of humor, irony, and sarcasm)
- Avoids eye contact
- Uses facial expressions that don’t match what he or she is saying
- Doesn’t pick up on other people’s facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures
- Makes very few gestures (such as pointing). May come across as cold or “robot-like.”
- Reacts unusually to sights, smells, textures, and sounds. May be especially sensitive to loud noises.
- Abnormal posture, clumsiness, or eccentric ways of moving (e.g. walking exclusively on tiptoe) (Source: The Help Guide – A trusted non-profit guide to mental health and well-being)
Regardless of the age of your child – don’t lose hope. Treatment can reduce the disorder’s effects and help your child learn, grow, and thrive. Talk to your primary care physician about signs you are noticing whether they are in area of communication, language or social difficulties. They can steer you in the right direction for a referral and evaluation.