MIAMI (CBSMiami) – One in 68 children in the U.S. have autism. Many also struggle with other health conditions. A new report took a look at how and why they may be linked.
Colby Rosenblatt often has a hard time falling, and staying, asleep.
“It has gotten progressively worse. Couldn’t get him to bed because he was scared to be alone,” said Stephanie Udell-Rosenblatt, the 13-year-old boy’s mother.
More than half of people with autism like Colby have sleep disturbances.
A new report from Autism Speaks also shows conditions such as epilepsy and gastrointestinal problems tend to go hand in hand with the disorder.
“Co-occurring conditions may be due to just sort of the interplay of autism and the environment. Others are definitely related though to biology,” explained Dr. Thomas Frazier, the chief science officer for Autism Speaks.
While children with autism are much more likely to have chronic GI issues, the report reveals there is little evidence that special diets, including gluten free, help autism symptoms.
Dr. Frazier says mental health issues such as anxiety and ADHD are also common.
“We have to really think about them not as just having autism but autism and whatever else is going on for them,” he said. “Addressing those other things can make a huge difference in their lives.”
For kids like Colby, doctors say it’s important to exercise, limit screen time and have a good bedtime routine.
Colby’s parents say a sleep tent helps.
“On a night where Colby gets great sleep he’s happy, feels like he is control of his body and emotions,” Udell-Rosenblatt said.
They also use white noise and nature sounds to put him at ease.
The report shows 30 to 60 percent of people with autism have symptoms of ADHD.