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


    • Department of Health Psychology and Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental DisordersUniversity of Missouri – Columbia
  • Roma A. Vasa
    • Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Department of PsychiatryJohns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Luther G. Kalb
    • Center for Autism and Related DisordersKennedy Krieger Institute
  • Stephen M. Kanne
    • Department of PediatricsPsychology Section, Baylor College of Medicine
  • Daniel Rosenberg
    • The EMMES Corporation
  • Amy Keefer
    • Center for Autism and Related DisordersKennedy Krieger Institute
  • Donna S. Murray
    • The Kelly O’Leary Center of Autism Spectrum Disorders, Division of Developmental & Behavioral PediatricsCincinnati Children’s Hospital, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
  • Brian Freedman
    • Center for Disabilities StudiesUniversity of Delaware
  • Lea Ann Lowery
    • Department of Occupational Therapy and Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental DisordersUniversity of Missouri-Columbia

DOI: 10.1007/s10802-012-9668-x

Cite this article as:
Mazurek, M.O., Vasa, R.A., Kalb, L.G. et al. J Abnorm Child Psychol (2013) 41: 165. doi:10.1007/s10802-012-9668-x


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.


Autism spectrum disordersAnxietySensory over-responsivityGastrointestinal problems

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012