In my last post I talked about how children with ADHD are more likely to have functional constipation/encopresis than children without ADHD. Today’s post focusses on a higher than usual incidence of autism among children diagnosed with functional constipation. A little known fact outside of the autism community is that GI disorders, most notably, chronic diarrhea and constipation, are among the most common medical conditions associated with autism. A recent study published last year in “The Journal of Pediatrics” confirmed this association.
The researchers found that in a group of 242 children diagnosed with functional constipation, a “strikingly high” number (29%) of these children had concomitant symptoms of childhood autism. These findings do not mean that autism causes functional constipation. As in the case of ADHD, these findings simply mean that there is a relationship of some kind between autism and encopresis.
The researchers speculate that their findings might be related to genetic factors or sensory processing difficulties. As with ADHD, they also speculate that autistic children get so absorbed in what they are doing or thinking that they simply ignore the urge to poop thus causing them to become constipated. The importance of this study for you and for your healthcare professional is to be “alert” for symptoms of autism when diagnosing or treating functional constipation.