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.
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A Statement of Special Educational Needs is a legal document issued by the local educational authority when children require significant additional support in school due to any learning and/or behavioural problems.
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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).
South Thames MREC 00/1/50; Kent & Medway LREC WK153/8/02.
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Chandler, S., Carcani-Rathwell, I., Charman, T. et al. Parent-Reported Gastro-intestinal Symptoms in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 43, 2737–2747 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-013-1768-0
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Gastro-intestinal symptoms
- Dietary intake