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Autism And More: Co-Occurring Conditions

The comorbidity rate of children with autism is higher compared to the rest of the population for several illnesses, such as medical, neurodevelopmental, and mental health issues. Understanding the co-occurring conditions present with autism is crucial to provide the right support. Here are some of the most common.

Our goal is to provide you with information to be educated about these potential challenges, we don’t want you to worry even more. Before continue reading, consider this content may trigger you. If you have any concerns, always consult your child’s doctors and never jump into conclusions.

                                                             Sleep Disorders

These are is a significant issue as 50-80% of children with autism experience them. Common problems include sleeponset, night arousals, early morning awakenings, or sleep that is too light to rest. Poor sleep can cause learning disorders, anxiety, and inattention. Sleep disorders can exacerbate some of the behavioral issues, hinder the learning process, and subsequently reduce the well-being and functioning of children and adults with autism.




ADHD symptoms are present in 30-60% of children with autism compared to the 6-7% of their peers. Research shows that genetic and environmental factors are involved in the interaction between ADHD and autism and there is evidence for an earlier ADHD diagnosis when autism is present. Characters like inattention, disorganization, overactivity, and impulsivity in particular are shared between ADHD and autism, and therefore it may be difficult to differentiate between the two.




Anxiety is prevalent in children with autism, and some of the factors that contribute to this are shared genetics and life experiences. Children with autism find  themselves in more pressure in social and academic contexts more frequently, thereby eliciting anxiety related to failure.

In this sense, anxiety is a notable problem when it occurs for weeks or months and interferes with activities. Recurrent actions, flexibility, lack of eye contact, and minimal communication are similar to autism, and thus, separating anxiety from autism becomes challenging.

Autism symptoms tend to increase with anxiety leading to higher levels of social problems and compulsive behaviors. This can slow down progress in the therapy and cause irritability, aggression or even self harm, which can lead to depression or thoughts of suicide. Children with autism are likely to develop various forms of anxiety including separation anxiety, phobia, and social anxiety.


Global Developmental Delay

Research reveals that a significant proportion of children diagnosed with ASD also have GDD. In fact, around 68. About 3% of children less than five years of age with autism also have GDD. When the delays are compounded with autism, the development profile is significantly more complicated.. The increased severity of developmental impairment correlates with the manifestation of more severe autism characteristics and the need for differentiated treatment and care.





Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, which are sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbances in the brain, it manifests more frequently in children with autism, comprising from 5 to 38 percent of such children as against 1-2 percent of all children with epilepsy. Children with autism are also vulnerable to other neurological diseases such as macrocephaly, hydrocephalous, cerebral palsy, migraines, as well as congenital disorders. About 10-30% of children with autism have epilepsy, and up to 8% of children with epilepsy have autism.



Obsessive-compulsive disorder comorbid with autism is not uncommon and can be quite difficult to effectively diagnose and manage. Having mentioned that, OCD is defined by obsessions and compulsions, which in the case of some people who have both disorders can take on a sensory-based nature. Autism traits, such as attention switching and social skills, have been linked to disability levels in patients with OC

The presence of severe and extreme OCD symptoms was more common in younger patients, emphasizing the impact of age on OCD severity and symptomatolog



While the prevalence of depression in autism is around 26%, or 5. 6 times above the general population’s 7%. The clinical symptoms of the conditions are also similar and this makes the diagnosis of depression in children with ASD a very tough task. There may be changes in appetite or weight, sleep and energy, and interest or pleasure in activities. Depression and anxiety are symptoms of autism, and this creates a dilemma in their diagnosis and management.


Gastrointestinal Disorders

Digestive issues are prevalent in children with ASD and range between 46-84% having to deal with constipation, diarrhea, reflux, nausea and vomiting, bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, ulcers, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and food sensitivities. This is because severe GI symptoms are symmetrically linked to severe autism features, particularly in nonverbal children who cannot verbally express their pain.



Children with autism are at a higher risk of experiencing co-occurring conditions compared to their peers. Understanding these co-occurring conditions is crucial for providing comprehensive care and support. If you suspect your child may be experiencing any of these issues, it is important to consult with healthcare professionals for proper diagnosis and treatment.

At Positive Behavior Services, we specialize in providing in-home and school ABA services for children with autism, gdd and adhd. Our team of experts is here to help you navigate these challenges and improve your child’s quality of life. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can assist you.





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