August 18, 2021

5 Common Co-Occurring Conditions That Can Create Challenges for Kids With ASD

Explaining conditions that can accompany ASD in children 

Key takeaways:

  1. 67% of kids with ASD develop gastrointestinal (GI) disorders
  2. One-third of kids with ASD suffer from epilepsy
  3. Over 50% of kids on the autism spectrum have ADHD
  4. Kids with ASD often have anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders
  5. 7 out of 10 children with ASD struggle with eating issues

People often think of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as one condition that affects how a child communicates, develops, and behaves. ASD often does not function alone, however. It can be complicated by one or more co-occurring or comorbid conditions which can pose additional challenges for kids.

We discuss five of the most common comorbid conditions with ASD and explain how they can affect your child’s physical, emotional, and mental health. We offer advice for kids with these comorbid conditions and talk about how ABA Therapy can help.

1. Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders

Children with ASD are at risk of developing GI problems such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which includes conditions like Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. Around 67% of children with ASD end up being diagnosed with IBD. Some children also suffer from constipation and acid reflux.

Signs of GI problems include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • GERD
  • Undigested food in stool
  • Flatulence

If your child experiences any of these symptoms, speak to their pediatrician.

2. Epilepsy

Up to one-third of children with autism also suffer from epilepsy which can cause seizures. Seizures happen due to too much electrical activity in the brain, which causes convulsions and blackouts in some cases.

Signs of epilepsy include:

  • Involuntary movements or convulsions
  • Unexplained staring episodes
  • Unexplained confusion
  • Severe headaches
  • Sleepiness

Treating epilepsy is important to prevent brain damage. If you notice any of these signs, your child should see a neurologist. He or she can perform an electroencephalogram (EEC) that looks for seizure-related activity in the brain.


ADHD is the most common disorder among children with ASD. More than 50% of children on the autism spectrum have ADHD.

Both ADHD and ASD impact your child’s “executive functioning” which guides things like decision-making, impulse control, and time management. They can also affect social skills and communication.

The symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Trouble sitting still
  • Interrupting conversations and activities
  • Trouble focusing
  • Jumps from one task to another
  • Hyperactivity

If you suspect your child might have ADHD, have him/her evaluated by a specialist such as a clinical psychologist.

4. Mental health conditions

Children and teens with ASD can develop mental health conditions. Around 11 to 84% suffer from anxiety. Around 7% of children (and 26% of adults) on the spectrum suffer from depression.

Other common mental health conditions include:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia

If you notice signs of anxiety, depression, or other psychological/mental disorders, speak with a doctor, mental health counselor, or psychiatrist.

5. Eating issues

Around 7 out of 10 children with ASD have trouble at mealtime. While some people with ASD demonstrate an aversion to textures and/or tastes, others may have difficulty with chewing and swallowing. Rigid food preferences can make it difficult to ensure your child gets the nutrition he/she needs.

If your child has issues with eating, speak to his/her doctor or therapist for suggestions. It might also be helpful to speak to a nutritionist.

Engage in ABA Therapy for your child

If your child is on the autism spectrum, ABA Therapy at Lumiere Children’s Therapy can be key to helping him or her gain essential skills and independence. We provide center and home-based therapy. We use play-based naturalistic strategies to teach children and create positive therapeutic relationships. We let kids be kids while teaching them to communicate and behave in ways that promote independence and allow for more social opportunities.

We also provide other comprehensive therapies for children with a wide range of physical, emotional, and developmental conditions, including:

  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Developmental therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Social work
  • Augmentative alternative communication
  • Early intervention
  • Teletherapy

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians works to improve the lives of children and their families.

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