“My tummy hurts,” Declan says holding his belly and rolling on the floor.
“Declan, it’s 2 AM! Please try to go back to sleep,” I say groggily way too many mornings.
“I wish you would eat more than 5 things! It isn’t healthy to only eat chicken nuggets and pizza!”
These are all things you hear in this house.
Often, Declan has an upset stomach.
And although we try to get Declan to sleep through the night with supplements and a lot of vigorous activity, he still is unable to do so.
And Catelyn and Declan would rather starve than eat something that smelled offensive, had an odd texture or was completely unknown.
Autism: A Whole-Body Disorder
And not just for my family. These issues are common among all individuals on the spectrum.
Along with the above-mentioned concerns of sleep disturbance, gastrointestinal distress and food related issues, it is common for individuals on the spectrum to also be diagnosed with epilepsy, ADHD, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
So today, when I received a letter from Autism Speaks addressing these co-morbid issues, I was super happy to see the following statement:
The last decade has brought tremendous advances in understanding and addressing the many physical and mental health conditions that frequently accompany autism. We now know that autism is a whole-body disorder for many people on the spectrum.
Awesome! If there are common roots in these areas for people on the spectrum, how do they all relate?
Inside the letter was a link to an in-depth report:
I went right to the areas that affected our family.
I read about sleep first and found:
These studies consistently found that over half of children with autism – and possibly as many as four in five – have one or more chronic sleep problems. (Cortesi 2010, Krakowiak 2008) These problems include difficulty falling asleep, frequent and prolonged wakening during the night and extremely early rising. Sleep issues in those who have autism go hand in hand with daytime behavioral challenges, including spikes in repetitive behaviors, communication difficulties, hyperactivity, irritability, aggression and inattention.
I read further about how caregivers were affected. Being awake when their children were awake and in fear of their children waking in the middle of the night and wandering.
I could easily relate! We have alarms placed on all our doors and, with the Pediatrician’s blessing, Declan was locked in his room at bedtime for over 3 years – just to keep him safe from early waking and wandering.
I then read about the feeding issues related to autism and learned:
The term feeding disorder describes problems with eating enough or the right type of food. Among children with autism, this often involves eating only a few types of foods, eating only certain textures or colors of food, and/or disruptive mealtime behavior. These issues have many causes, including sensory aversions, anxiety (e.g. after an incidence of choking, gagging or vomiting) and rigidity (aversion to change).
Yep! Yep! Yep!
I found similar positive information when I read about Gastrointestinal Disturbances for people on the spectrum. I also found sporadic relief from diet control, and more relief from adding probiotics to Declan’s diet (when I can get them past him!).
In short, I found the information about Autism and Health to be very informative. I encourage you to take a look.
I found the information provided to help treat some of these co-morbid disorders to be very interesting. And I am happy to see that this report will be put out annually, so the information will be updated as new developments arise.
Declan’s lack of sleep can affect his following day. I watch Declan get angry, lash out and cry more on days he did not sleep well. I watch Declan moan and hold his belly. As a mom, I would like those issues to find a cure so that he is not experiencing any unnecessary pain. So I am glad to see the research being completed.
Inside the report I also found this updated handout about autism. I found it to be very informative!