Children who are diagnosed with autism are known to have other co-existing problems.Thorough evaluation is needed to rule out whether the comorbidity is directly associated with ASD or is altogether a different condition in the child.
Below mentioned are some of the problems which may be associated with Autism.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):
It is often observed that adults or children with autism display obsessive compulsive behaviors, for e.g. lining or arranging objects in a particular way. Children with autism usually have repetitive, preservative thoughts that are intense in nature, much like children with purely OCD symptoms. However, the difference is that children purely with OCD do not like the experience of having repetitive thoughts and would do anything to get rid of the thoughts (such as washing one’s hands 25 times).
Autism Child generally finds comfort in such kind of obsessive or repetitive behavior and may spend a good amount of time and energy in doing that.(such as transferring toys from one box to another,or lining up toys or any objects).
Tuchman (2006) estimated that 25 % of individuals with autism also develop seizures which could be seen either in childhood or during puberty which may have been triggered due to hormonal changes in the body. Seizures could range from mild form where the where the person would be gazing into space for a few seconds to a severe episode featuring large jerky movements of the whole body for several minutes. Doctors usually prescribe drugs to control the seizure activity or frequency. It is however very important that the child undergoes regular health checkups as these drugs could have harmful side-effects.
Mood disorders are characterized by inappropriate or uncontrolled mood changes. There are many studies which have indicated that individuals with autism are at an increased risk of developing mood disorders, particularly depressive disorder. As people with autism spectrum disorder may face a number of negative life events such as bullying and poor social acceptance especially during adolescent years. Such experiences may increase the risk of developing depressive disorder.
Many individuals with autism have sleep problems. The biggest sleep problems among these children include difficulty falling asleep, inconsistent sleep routines, restlessness or poor sleep quality, waking early and waking frequently. These problems affect the overall health of the child and are associated with the child’s aggression, depression, hyperactivity, increased behavioral problems, irritability and poor learning and cognitive performance. You as parents may also be exhausted due to sleep deprivation.
Children with autism learn differently and often they are diagnosed as having learning disability such as dyslexia. A few others may have unusual abilities such as hyperlexia i.e. the ability to read at very young age. Some have exceptional mathematical abilities and fall under the “savants” category, while others have a tough time gaining mathematical skills.
Pica is characterized by an appetite for nonfood and non-nutritive items such as chalk, paper, sand, paint, dirt, etc. It is seen that usually 30 % of children with autism have moderate to severe pica. Although consumption of some items may be harmless, pica is considered to be a serious eating disorder that can sometimes result in serious health problems such as lead poisoning and iron-deficiency anemia.
Children with autism are more likely to have issues of the gastrointestinal system affecting digestion and elimination. Data from a study by Loening-Baucke (1998) reported that 16-37% of children with autism have constipation. But looked at otherwise, no normal child with chronic diarrhoea, stomach cramps and nausea will learn, behave or socialize well. By treating gastrointestinal problems, we can help these children become more receptive to school, therapy, and social interaction.
The above problems superimposed over the primary symptoms of autism, your child’s ability to interact socially, behave acceptably, learn, communicate or play actively may be further affected. They must be monitored and treated appropriately by the concerned medical professionals. Some of the above mentioned problems could bring embarrassment to you and also affect your sociability.