Autism spectrum disorders: concurrent clinical disorders

J Child Neurol. 2008 Jan;23(1):6-13. doi: 10.1177/0883073807307102. Epub 2007 Dec 3.


Individuals with autism spectrum disorder are heterogeneous in clinical presentation, concurrent disorders, and developmental outcomes. This study characterized the clinical co-occurrences and potential subgroups in 160 children with autism spectrum disorders who presented to The Autism Center between 1999 and 2003. Medical and psychiatric co-occurrences included sleep disorders, epilepsy, food intolerance, gastrointestinal dysfunction, mood disorder, and aggressive and self-injurious behaviors. Sleep disorders were associated with gastrointestinal dysfunction (P < .05) and mood disorders (P < .01). Food intolerance was associated with gastrointestinal dysfunction (P = .001). Subjects with mood disorder tended to develop aggressive or self-injurious behaviors (P < .05). Developmental regression was not associated with increased co-occurrence of medical or psychiatric disorders. Medical co-occurrence did not present as a risk factor for psychiatric co-occurrence, and vice versa. These results showed a high prevalence of multiple medical and psychiatric co-occurrences. There may be common pathophysiologic mechanisms resulting in clinical subgroups of autism spectrum disorders. Recognition of the co-occurrence of concurrent disorders may provide insight into the therapeutic strategy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity
  • Developmental Disabilities / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mood Disorders / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Regression, Psychology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Self Mutilation / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*