Common Risks and Health-Related Autism Problems

If you have a child or someone you love who has been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder you already face some challenges related to behavior.

In 2018 the Center for Disease Control estimated that 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with a form of autism. Boys are significantly more likely, by four times, to have autism over girls. 

If you have a diagnosis, you are already familiar with some autism problems. At the same time, there are many health related problems that can arise in conjunction with an autism diagnosis. 

Often these health issues will have overlapping symptoms and indicators which creates challenges for treatment and management. Learn about these disorders associated with autism and how you can recognize and treat them in your own child. 

Gastrointestinal Problems

One common disorder associated with autism is gastrointestinal problems. It’s estimated between 46% to 85% of all autism diagnosis comes with some related gastrointestinal issues. 

Common symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Acid reflux
  • Diarrhea

Some treatments have included removing dairy and gluten from the diet. Others have been successful by removing processed foods that have dye. Both of these have helped some of the effects of gastrointestinal problems. 

One complication for children with autism is they may not show traditional symptoms of gastrointestinal problems or may not be able to articulate the problem. Symptoms for them might include:

  • Coughing excessively
  • Refusing to swallow food
  • Hitting self in jaw or fisting the jaw
  • Chewing excessively
  • Chewing on clothes
  • Chin tapping

Often when the problems related to GI problems are treated, the behavior is also improved with those who have autism. 


Health conditions and symptoms often overlap. Children and women with autism have a higher rate of headaches. However, recognizing the headaches can be tricky because of other issues like pain tolerance or ADHD. 

Adults with autism have a higher rate of migraines. This autism problem seems especially prevalent in women with autism. 

One large scale study suggests that those with an ASD diagnosis and ADHD are twice as likely to also get migraines. A genetic predisposition for one is the same for the other. 

Feeding Issues and Food Allergies

There are a plethora of food and eating issues related to autism and other disorders. One study suggests that 7 out of every 10 children have feeding issues related to their autism. 

These issues can include a great sensitivity to textures in foods. Children with autism are often very picky about food and want to eat the same thing over and over. 

Another food-related issue can be chronic overeating. Because of a lack of sensors, they can’t recognize when they get full. 

Related to food and gastrointestinal issues, food allergies are much more prevalent in those with autism. Common food allergies or sensitivities include:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Sugar
  • Corn
  • Artificial  dye and preservatives 

Both autism and food allergies are linked to the immune system, and there seems to be a correlation between the two.

Seizure Disorders

While seizure disorders or epilepsy only affect 1 or 2% of the general population, up to one-third of those with autism are affected by them. While children can be diagnosed with autism at a young age, some as early as two. Seizures mostly commonly start in adolescence or after the age of ten. 

There are several scenarios that suggest why those with autism are at a higher rate for seizures:

  • A child with a loss of language skills before age 3 is more likely to develop seizures. 
  • An autistic individual who also has an intellectual disability is most likely to develop a seizure disorder. 
  • Those using antipsychotic medications for their ASD are also more likely to develop a seizure disorder. 

Treatment for seizure disorders is highly important to avoid any further damage in the brain. 

Sleep Issues

One report suggests at least 80% of children with ASD are also likely to have a sleep-related issue. These can manifest themselves in a few ways. 

Often children with autism have a difficult time getting to sleep or staying asleep. They often wake up very early no matter what time they go to sleep.

Because children with autism often also have ADHD, anxiety, or depression, it affects their ability to get to sleep or stay asleep. Medications used to treat autism can also impact a person’s ability to sleep. 


Autism impacts a person’s ability to recognize emotion. There seems to be a correlation between autism and anxiety. People with autism struggle with anxiety and the management of it. 

It is suggested that 42% of people with autism also anxiety disorders compared to a very small percentage of those in the general population.

Treatment of anxiety can be part of the behavioral treatment for autism. Behavioral therapy is key for managing social anxiety faced by those with autism.

Learn about treatments and more about this clinic that helps to treat behaviors connected to autism. They use aba therapy to help address the condition of autism and related anxiety disorders. 


Between 30 and 60% of people with autism also have an attention deficit disorder. The symptoms of autism and an attention deficit often overlap making it tricky to correctly diagnose. 

The ability to stay focused can overlap with some of the behavioral problems associated with autism. It’s important that those suspecting a problem with both seek treatment from a specialist who is familiar with how these conditions overlap.

Like autism, ADHD can be treated with both behavioral therapy and medications. 

Pain Sensitivity or Low Pain Sensitivity

People who have autism can have very high sensitivity to pain or very low sensitivity to pain. The conflict is unusual but not uncommon with those who have autism. 

Some with an ASD diagnosis can be highly sensitive to pain, touch or sound. It can trigger behaviors or anxiety.  This might overlap with food issues or anxiety. 

While others with autism can have extremely low sensitivity to pain. This can be dangerous as they might not feel pain appropriately.  They might not feel when their mouth or stomach is full. In more severe cases they might feel the pain of an injury. 

Health-Related Autism Problems

There is any number of health-related problems associated with autism spectrum disorders. Often these overlap each other making both diagnosis and treatment more complicated. 

Autism problems are already challenging, but finding treatment for these health issues often helps the issues connected to the behaviors of autism. 

Learn more about health-related issues for children by visiting our blog