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Autism and Co Morbid Conditions and Research

Contrary to what you may hear autism is treatable. It is important to find effective services, treatments and education for autistic children as soon as possible. The earlier these children receive appropriate treatment, the better their prognosis-this includes ruling out common co-occurring medical conditions.

Children with autism often have other co-occurring medical conditions, including mental retardation (about 50%), seizures (25%), subclinical seizures (60-80%), low muscle tone (about 30%), sensory sensitivities (about 30%), gastrointestinal problems (chronic constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, abdominal pain in about 50%), and sleep problems (about 50%).
Some abnormal behaviors of children with autism are actually caused by medical issues. Once these medical issues are addressed the behaviors stop.

It is impossible to learn effectively if you do not feel well.

Some children actually lose skills or do not retain skills because of a medical condition.

What are the most common co-occurring medical conditions for children with Autism?

Gastrointestinal Disorders:

  • According to an article in the Journal of Medical Microbiology in 2005 “Children with ASD tend to suffer from severe gastrointestinal problems. “ It found that “GI problems were significantly more frequent in ASD patients than in controls demonstrating a significant association between GI symptoms and autism.”
  • It is important to see a GI specialist if your child experiences any constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, reflux, or abdominal pain.
  • There are several easy treatments that the doctors can give to relieve these symptoms

Seizure Disorders:

  • According to a study published in Epilepsy and Behavior 10 to 30 percent of children with a autism have Epilepsy.    Autism and epilepsy: Cause , consequence, co morbidity or coincidence? By Lidia Gabis, John Pomeroy and Mary R. Androla
  • Epilepsy is a well-known co morbidity of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), with about one third of these children developing seizures over their lifetime.
  • Seizures do NOT always present exactly the same way in every individual. They can be different from a major convulsion on the floor to minor seizures which look like rapid eye movement or a period of “zoning out.”

Immune Disorders:

  • Approximately 25% of children on the spectrum have immune deficiency and dysfunction.
  • Most children with autism do not have symptoms so it is important to run the lab work to rule this disorder.
  • Children who have gastrointestinal disorders are very likely to have immune deficiency.

Medical CD Documents-Download

2. How to Access Excellent Medical Care-8

3. The Co-Morbid Conditions of Autism Spectrum Disorders

4. Tracking Medical Bills-1

5. Autism Alarm5. Autism Alarm

6. Parent Letter April 2009


8. AutismComorbidities

9. Management of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

10. Primary Medical Care For Children With Autism Needs Improvement

11. Med Home for Children with Autism

12. Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Treatment of GI

14. Seizure Study

15. Metabolic_Geneticist

16. Mito Study Dimauro autism article

17. SCAD Deficiency

18. tuchman study



Co Morbid Conditions Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Seizure Disorders
Constipation and/or Diarrhea
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders (EGIDs)
Celiac Disease
Mitochondrial Diseases
Inborn Errors of Metabolism
Tuberous Sclerosis
Fragile X Syndrome
Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases
Anxiety Disorders
Food and Environmental Allergies
Feeding Issues
Sleep disorders
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Mood Disorders
Sensory Processing Disorders
Tourette Syndrome
Rett Syndrome
Central Auditory Processing Disorders

Autism Research

The causes of autism are unknown in most cases.  Approximately 5-10% of cases are mostly due to a single severe genetic abnormality, such as Fragile X.  Approximately 12% of cases are associated with maternal antibodies that attack the fetus’ brain.  Most cases are complex, involving a combination of many genetic and environmental factors.  Some of the important environmental factors appear to be exposure to toxic metals (especially mercury), toxic chemicals (especially pesticides), excess oral antibiotic use, oxidative stress, and nutritional deficiencies.  In 2009 the incidence of autism reached approximately 1 in 100 children in the US, far higher than levels 30 years ago, and most of the increase appears to be real (not due just to better diagnosing).

Many children with autism have low levels of glutathione (the major defense against toxic metals), so they are vulnerable to even low levels of toxic metals.  It is important to investigate the underlying medical problems that these children often have.  For a detailed summary of biomedical treatments, see Summary of Biomedical Treatments at Treating these underlying medical conditions often results in improved behavior, and improved ability to learn language and build social understanding.

Many families are overwhelmed with all of the many treatments currently available.  There is an effective tool created by the Autism Research Institute to help evaluate treatments called the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC).

Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC)

The ATEC is a one-page form designed to be completed by parents, teachers, or caretakers. It consists of 4 subtests: I. Speech/Language Communication (14 items); II. Sociability (20 items); III. Sensory/ Cognitive Awareness (18 items); and IV. Health/Physical/Behavior (25 items).

Unlike most of the scales, it is not copyrighted and may be used free of charge by any researcher. Copies are available on request from the Autism Research Institute or at the ARI website.

Users of the ATEC may have it scored free (4 subscores and a total score) by entering the responses via computer to the ATEC form on the website for immediate and free-of-cost scoring. ATEC forms are only accepted online.

Results of research using the ATEC will appear in future issues of the ARRI (only with the express permission of the researchers who use ATEC, of course).

For more information on research, please visit