Article

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 165-176

Anxiety, Sensory Over-Responsivity, and Gastrointestinal Problems in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Micah O. MazurekAffiliated withDepartment of Health Psychology and Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, University of Missouri – Columbia Email author 
  • , Roma A. VasaAffiliated withCenter for Autism and Related Disorders, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Department of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • , Luther G. KalbAffiliated withCenter for Autism and Related Disorders, Kennedy Krieger Institute
  • , Stephen M. KanneAffiliated withDepartment of Pediatrics, Psychology Section, Baylor College of Medicine
  • , Daniel RosenbergAffiliated withThe EMMES Corporation
  • , Amy KeeferAffiliated withCenter for Autism and Related Disorders, Kennedy Krieger Institute
  • , Donna S. MurrayAffiliated withThe Kelly O’Leary Center of Autism Spectrum Disorders, Division of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
  • , Brian FreedmanAffiliated withCenter for Disabilities Studies, University of Delaware
  • , Lea Ann LoweryAffiliated withDepartment of Occupational Therapy and Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, University of Missouri-Columbia

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Abstract

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) experience high rates of anxiety, sensory processing problems, and gastrointestinal (GI) problems; however, the associations among these symptoms in children with ASD have not been previously examined. The current study examined bivariate and multivariate relations among anxiety, sensory over-responsivity, and chronic GI problems in a sample of 2,973 children with ASD enrolled in the Autism Treatment Network (ages 2–17 years, 81.6 % male). Twenty-four percent of the sample experienced at least one type of chronic GI problem (constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and/or nausea lasting three or more months). Children with each type of GI problem had significantly higher rates of both anxiety and sensory over-responsivity. Sensory over-responsivity and anxiety were highly associated, and each provided unique contributions to the prediction of chronic GI problems in logistic regression analyses. The results indicate that anxiety, sensory over-responsivity and GI problems are possibly interrelated phenomenon for children with ASD, and may have common underlying mechanisms.

Keywords

Autism spectrum disorders Anxiety Sensory over-responsivity Gastrointestinal problems