bear-1821473_640Ensuring and maintaining the overall health of individuals with ASD is vital. Just like neurotypical children and adults, individuals with ASD can get sick or injured at any time, so regular medical and dental checkups should be built into an individual’s treatment plan. In addition to common mental health concerns, individuals with ASD may also be prone to certain physical health issues. The information below is designed to help provide answers to common health-related questions and concerns as they relate to individuals with ASD.

Can ASD-Related Behaviors be Treated with Medication?

There is no medication to cure ASD, but it may help minimize and modify particular ASD symptoms such as anxiety, aggression, inability to focus, or seizures. Not all medications affect individuals in the same manner, so it is important to discuss medications with a medical professional and closely monitor an individual’s progress and reactions while on the medication.

Do Individuals with ASD Require Special Diets? Are There Other Feeding Concerns?

Not all individuals with ASD require special diets, but some do have digestive problems or food allergies.  Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are common medical conditions associated with ASD, possibly due to unusually high levels of certain bacteria in individuals with ASD as compared to neurotypical individuals. These disorders often require special diets or medication, which are designed to treat the GI disorder itself, not ASD.

Other feeding concerns related to individuals with ASD may include avoidance of foods with certain sensory conditions (texture, color, smell, etc.), overeating (due to poor sensitivity of internal cues such as feeling full), and a habit of eating nonfood items (a condition known as Pica). Feeding concerns may be addressed as part of an individual’s therapy plan or with the help of a nutritional specialist.

What Challenges do Individuals with ASD Have with Sleeping?

Many individuals with ASD have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up. These sleep disturbances may be connected to behavioral challenges during the day and are thought to be a result of mutations in genes that regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle among individuals with ASD. There may also be a connection between sleep disturbance and anxiety in those with ASD and co-occurring mental health disorders. Neurologists and sleep specialists may be able to provide strategies, supports, or treatment options to assist individuals with the challenges related to sleeping.

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