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Gastrointestinal Symptoms in 2- to 5-Year-Old Children in the Study to Explore Early Development


Gastrointestinal symptoms (GIS) are commonly reported in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This multi-site study evaluated the prevalence of GIS in preschool-aged children with ASD/(n = 672), with other developmental delays (DD)/(n = 938), and children in the general population (POP)/(n = 851). After adjusting for covariates, children in the ASD group were over 3 times more likely to have parent-reported GIS than the POP group, and almost 2 times more likely than the DD group. Children with GIS from all groups had more behavioral and sleep problems. Within the ASD group, children with developmental regression had more GIS than those without; however, there were no differences in autism severity scores between children with and without GIS. These findings have implications for clinical management.

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Special thanks to SEED family participants, investigators, and staff at the SEED sites. We thank the SEED Data Coordinating Center team at the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute of Michigan State University for their support throughout this study. This project was supported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Cooperative Agreements announced under the following RFA’s: Grant Nos. 01086, 02199, DD11-002, DD06-003, DD04-001, and DD09-002 ( The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the CDC. This work was also supported by NIH/NCATS Colorado CTSA Grant No. UL1 TR001082. Contents are the authors’ sole responsibility and do not necessarily represent official NIH views.


The authors have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.

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All authors gave final approval of the article and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work, ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. All authors made substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data. All authors drafted the work or revised it critically for important intellectual content.

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Correspondence to Ann M. Reynolds.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest relevant to this article to disclose. Dr. Reynolds is participating in clinical trials with Roche and is providing consultation to Ovid Therapeutics regarding evaluation of sleep severity and improvement in clinical trials.

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Reynolds, A.M., Soke, G.N., Sabourin, K.R. et al. Gastrointestinal Symptoms in 2- to 5-Year-Old Children in the Study to Explore Early Development. J Autism Dev Disord 51, 3806–3817 (2021).

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  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Preschool
  • Developmental delay