Conditions Occurring with Autism

Children and adults who have autism often have a number of other disorders and conditions as well. Some of the most common include:

Mental Retardation

Its been estimated that as many as 80% of those diagnosed with autism also have some degree of mental retardation, but experts are starting to question those numbers. They point out that research studies often use IQ tests that are inappropriate, such as verbal tests with children who are non-verbal. Its suggested that parents should request intelligence tests that are meant to measure non-verbal intelligence, such as the TONI (Test for Non-Verbal Intelligence), and keep in mind that autistic children will acquire more skills as they grow older with appropriate therapy.

Its also important to keep in mind that children diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders often show extremely uneven development. Their mathematical skills or spatial reasoning may be far in advance of their age, while reading comprehension is virtually non-existent, for instance.

Seizure Disorders

About 25% of people with autism also have seizures at some point in their lives. They can be mild or severe grand mal seizures. In many cases, the seizures may be ‘sub-clinical, and barely noticeable to an observer, but they can seriously affect the way the mind works. It may be necessary to use a 24 hour EKG, since a one to two hour EKG may show nothing.

There are a number of drugs used to control seizures, including Depakote and Seroquel, but many have significant side effects. Some research has suggested that vitamin B6 and dimethylglycine (DMG) can help some people with seizure disorders.

Chronic Constipation and/or Diarrhea

The Autism Research Institute suggests that close to 50% of people with autism suffer from chronic constipation and diarrhea, which may require regular treatment with stool softeners, or dietary consideration.

Sleep Problems

Sleep disorders are common among people with autism. They may wake at night because of stomach acid reflux or for other reasons. There are many possibilities for helping to induce normal sleep, including elevating the head of the bed, or vigorous exercise before bed. Some children with autism also benefit from physical sleep aids like mummy-wrapping, or a weighted blanket to induce a feeling of security.


Pica is eating items that are not food. About 30% of children with autism have moderate to severe pica. They may eat plastic, paint, dirt, paper and other non-food substances. Pica increases the risk of lead and other heavy metal poisoning.

Low Muscle Tone

Many children with autism (about 30%) also exhibit poor muscle tone (floppiness). The floppiness is often accompanied by low potassium levels. Nutritionists suggest that eating more fruit may help.

Sensory Sensitivities

Its not unusual for autistic children to have peculiar sensitivities to sound, taste, color, light, touch or smells. Mothers with children who are hypersensitive in this way may find that they have to cut tags out of the necklines of t-shirts, or avoid clothing with seams. There are children with sensitivities to variations in light who cant tolerate the flicker of a fluorescent light, or simply cant deal with the overstimulation in a public place like a supermarket. Some children may have a very high pain threshold and seem not to react to pain at all, while others have a very low pain threshold. Sensory normalization therapies may help with these children.