Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 12, pp 2737–2747 | Cite as

Parent-Reported Gastro-intestinal Symptoms in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Susie Chandler
  • Iris Carcani-Rathwell
  • Tony Charman
  • Andrew Pickles
  • Tom Loucas
  • David Meldrum
  • Emily Simonoff
  • Peter Sullivan
  • Gillian BairdEmail author
Original Paper


The objective of this study is to investigate whether parentally-reported gastro-intestinal (GI) symptoms are increased in a population-derived sample of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) compared to controls. Participants included 132 children with ASD and 81 with special educational needs (SEN) but no ASD, aged 10–14 years plus 82 typically developing (TD) children. Data were collected on GI symptoms, diet, cognitive abilities, and developmental histories. Nearly half (weighted rate 46.5 %) of children with ASD had at least one individual lifetime GI symptom compared with 21.8 % of TD children and 29.2 % of those with SEN. Children with ASD had more past and current GI symptoms than TD or SEN groups although fewer current symptoms were reported in all groups compared with the past. The ASD group had significantly increased past vomiting and diarrhoea compared with the TD group and more abdominal pain than the SEN group. The ASD group had more current constipation (when defined as bowel movement less than three times per week) and soiling than either the TD or SEN groups. No association was found between GI symptoms and intellectual ability, ASD severity, ASD regression or limited or faddy diet. Parents report more GI symptoms in children with ASD than children with either SEN or TD children but the frequency of reported symptoms is greater in the past than currently in all groups.


Autism Autism spectrum disorders Gastro-intestinal symptoms Dietary intake Regression 



We would like to thank the parents and children who participated. We would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers. The study was funded by the Department of Health, the Wellcome Trust and the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR).

Ethical Approval

South Thames MREC 00/1/50; Kent & Medway LREC WK153/8/02.

Supplementary material

10803_2013_1768_MOESM1_ESM.doc (29 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 29 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susie Chandler
    • 1
  • Iris Carcani-Rathwell
    • 2
  • Tony Charman
    • 3
  • Andrew Pickles
    • 3
  • Tom Loucas
    • 4
  • David Meldrum
    • 5
  • Emily Simonoff
    • 3
  • Peter Sullivan
    • 6
  • Gillian Baird
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Children’s Neurosciences Department, Newcomen Child Development Centre, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Staircase DSt Thomas HospitalLondonUK
  2. 2.South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation TrustLondonUK
  3. 3.Institute of PsychiatryKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.School of Psychology and Clinical Language SciencesUniversity of ReadingReadingUK
  5. 5.Chatswood Assessment CentreSydneyAustralia
  6. 6.Department of Paediatrics, Oxford Children’s HospitalUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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