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ASD Co-Occurring Disorders & Difficulties: 7 Diagnoses

ASD Co-Occurring Disorders & Difficulties: 7 Diagnoses
August 16, 2019 Barbara Cravey

Oftentimes, a child with ASD will have co-occurring disorders which can make eating, sleeping, or interacting with the world difficult. However, because ASD looks different for everyone, these diagnoses often go unnoticed, and untreated, as they are mistakenly lumped together with ASD symptomology.

Let’s set the record straight and use our resources on co-occurring disorders and difficulties to help diagnosing become more clear, helpful, and healing in the future.

Sensory Issues

Sensory issues are often comorbid with a diagnosis of ASD and can involve both hyper-sensitivities (acting in an over-responsive way to sensory stimuli) and hypo-sensitivities (acting in a way that is considered under-responsive).

And when we say ‘sensory stimuli’ we mean:

  • Sights
  • Sounds
  • Smells
  • Touch
  • Tastes
  • Body Awareness
  • And balance


Anxiety affects under 5% of the general child population, but over 40% of people with Autism. Often breakdowns or meltdowns are due to anxiety as sometimes individuals with Autism have trouble assessing or expressing their emotions.

Additionally, anxiety can be caused by certain situations, people, activities, or no trigger at all. But remember, anxiety can only be diagnosed by a medical professional.


Over a quarter of individuals with ASD also have depression, and depression rates rise with age. Often it is difficult to diagnose depression, as communication is not always a strength of individuals with ASD and communication challenges can make understanding and labeling depression exceedingly difficult. Common signs of depression are:

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts or irritability
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Sleep issues
  • Lack of energy
  • Changes in weight
  • Anxiety
  • Slowed thinking or body movements
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Trouble concentrating


Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that can affect almost one in three people with Autism. In the general population, epilepsy only affects 1 or 2 in a hundred. See some of the warning signs from our friends at Autismspeaks.Org!


Sleep Issues

Somewhere between 50% and 75% of children with ASD have sleep disruption problems. These sleep problems can make behavior issues exacerbate, make learning more difficult, and make communication and relationships suffer.

None of us feel at our best when we haven’t slept well, but unfortunately, sleeping poorly is much more common in individuals with ASD than the general population.

GI Problems

GI, or gastrointestinal disorders, are eight times more common in children who also have Autism, which means your child’s ‘tummy ache’ might be much more. Common industrial problems include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Bowel inflammation
  • Reflux


ADHD or ADD affects between 25-55% of the population with ASD, making classrooms, learning, and focus-heavy settings even more difficult. Symptoms of ADHD often overlap greatly with those of ASD, making it difficult to correctly diagnose with either one, or both.

Treatment for both ADHD and ASD should include behavioral strategies backed by research and an experienced team. In some cases, medication for ADHD can be used as well.

Learn More About ABC Pediatrics’ Treatment Options & Therapy Techniques

If your child has a co-occurring disorder, then let us help by creating a special treatment plan curated for your specific family, child, and goals. We offer a wide range of services and have experience in everything from ADHD to sensory issues and more.

We would love to meet you and your little one and help them move mountains! Contact us today to learn more or read more of our articles here on our blog.


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