Disorders do not always appear alone; another one might sidle up alongside it. For example, those with anxiety disorders may also suffer from depression. In the medical world, this phenomenon is known as comorbidity.
Science has discovered that those with autism may also experience a variety of co-morbid disorders and conditions. That is, they not only meet the diagnostic criteria for ASD, but they also meet the diagnostic criteria for other disorders. It’s important to identify these separate conditions so that they can be managed and treated alongside ASD as seamlessly as possible. Here are eight common ones.
ADHD stands for “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” Children with this disorder may have trouble paying attention for long periods of time, struggle to sit still, behave impulsively, have trouble in school, or have issues with staying organized.
2. Sensory Processing Disorder
When we talk about kids with autism, we often talk about sensory issues that go along with it. Believe it or not, however, Sensory Processing Disorder is a separate condition from autism, albeit an extremely common one among those on the spectrum; more than three out of four have it.
3. Anxiety Disorder
This is a pretty broad category, but estimates indicate that over 40 percent of the autism population experiences some sort of anxiety disorder, be it a phobia (a deep, irrational fear of something), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (frequent anxiety about many different things), OCD (persistent, obsessive thoughts that are mitigated with specific rituals), panic disorder (frequent panic attacks), and social anxiety (fear surrounding social situations).
4. Gastrointestinal Disorders
Gastrointestinal disorders cover a wide range of issues related to the digestion process. This could include stomach aches, food allergies, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and more.
Depression goes beyond the occasional, “down in the dumps” feelings we might get after a bad day. Deep, prolonged sadness and a loss of interest in life are two markers of this condition. This disorder tends to be more common among teens and adults with autism.
6. Tourette Syndrome
Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a disorder characterized by involuntary tics, whether vocal or physical. These tics are not to be confused with stimming; tics are sudden, involuntary movements akin to sneezing, whereas stims are intentional movements that soothe the person. Both also take place in different parts of the body. For example, common tics involve the face, whereas common stims involve the extremities.
Epilepsy is another common co-morbid condition in autism. Those with this disorder have seizures, which can present themselves in different forms. Most familiar to many of us are convulsions, but there can also be periods where the person will stare into space. Their muscles may tighten, and they may have bouts of confusion, as well.
8. Sleep Problems
Many kids with autism also have some sort of sleep problem, namely insomnia. This occurs for a number of reasons. Their biological sleep cycles may be off. Their bodies may not regulate melatonin as they should. More specific to autism, there could be some anxiety surrounding the bedtime rituals, as well as struggles reading social cues as to when it’s time for bed.
Does your child have any of these disorders?
A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.