What if you were granted one wish to change one thing for your child with autism?

However, the wish could not be taking away autism?

What would you wish for?

Better sleep? Better skills in communication? Better mood or behavior regulation?

For us, it would be resolving the GI issues that are a daily source of discomfort and an ongoing hindrance to progress in so many areas of her life. Be warned: this blog may sound like the television commercial that begins with that perky lady, asking “anyone here have constipation, diarrhea, gas?” 

Yes! I swear she was born constipated. She also had gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) and slept on a wedge her first years. I recall her pediatrician recommending increased liquids and holding off on solid foods to see if that helped. It didn’t – so we began the long journey in trying to remedy her distress.

When we got her autism diagnosis in 1999, doctors were not yet making the connection with GI problems, sleep disturbance, and other challenges that we now know affect many children on the spectrum. It’s interesting, how on many days, “her autism” seems to be less challenging than these other physical symptoms. In addition to the bodily discomfort she experiences, her GI troubles have, over the years, interfered with her ability to focus and learn, to be toilet-trained, and to be out in the community. At its most serious, she has been in the hospital for impaction and dehydration.

For years we have kept data on every bowel movement, recording in great detail the specifics that only parents of a chronically-constipated kid can appreciate. What size? What shape? What consistency? We often feel a little odd with such a focus. Who else would revel in a good poop? We definitely get pretty excited about it! We have tried everything in the book with the guidance of good doctors and nurses and while it has gotten better as her diet expanded, the problems persist.

Chronic constipation and GE reflux are not the only GI symptoms that kids on the spectrum may experience. Diarrhea or a combination of constipation and diarrhea, gassiness, bloating, and abdominal pain may also be present.

Fortunately, more attention is now focused on these problems and a growing number of research studies corroborate what parents have known – that many children on the autism spectrum have ongoing GI troubles.

For more information on research and treatment, check out the following from Autism Speaks:

Autism and GI Disorders: Largest-Ever Analysis Confirms Strong Link

Autism Speaks Announces Unprecedented Investment in Gut-Brain Research

IACC Gains Troubling Insights Into GI Disorders

ATN/AIR-P Guide for Managing Constipation in Children