Nearly all children with autism are dealing with at least one other condition — and often several — ranging from anxiety to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, sleep, behavioral and gastrointestinal issues, a new study suggests.
In an analysis of records on almost 1,900 kids on the spectrum, researchers found that over 95 percent presented with at least one issue in addition to autism.
The findings come from a study published online this month in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders led by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers looked for evidence of the 18 most common co-occurring conditions or symptoms in the children with autism, including cognitive issues, regression, behavior problems, congenital or genetic conditions and language disorders.
On average, they found that each child had 4.9 of these secondary conditions, with a higher prevalence among 8-year-olds compared to 4-year-olds.
Moreover, the study found that kids with autism who had co-occurring conditions were more likely to be diagnosed with the developmental disorder at younger ages.
“While the reasons behind this high prevalence are still unclear, their presence contributes to the ASD phenotype heterogeneity, which is a potential barrier to a timely diagnosis of ASD and a challenge for studying ASD etiology because of difficulties in defining a single early ASD behavioral marker,” the study authors concluded.
The researchers said their findings support the need for a “comprehensive system of care” for those with autism and greater consideration of co-occurring conditions in order to enhance early detection of the developmental disorder.