Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have multiple co-existing conditions ranging from learning disability, disorders of sensory perception to psychiatric co-morbidities. These co-existing conditions add a significant burden to the care of children with ASD; estimation of their true prevalence can help in planning services for children with ASD and their parents.
To identify the prevalence and correlates of parent/carer–reported co-existing conditions in children with ASD.
Children were included in either a population-based Database of children with ASD living in the North East of England (Daslne), or a research register - the Autism Spectrum Database – UK (ASD-UK).The parent report questionnaire included basic demographic information and the 10 most common co-existing conditions, rated by parents as frequent (problem behaviour present 3 or more times a week), sometimes (present once or twice a week), never or rare, and in the past only.
Questionnaires were completed by parents of more than 1500 children aged 2 to 18 years. More than half were reported to present four or more types of problems frequently. Habit problems related to sleep and eating, behavioural problems including hyperactivity and temper tantrums, and emotional problems such as anxiety and sensory issues were reported commonly. Unsurprisingly, children with lower language ability and in special schooling had higher levels of reported problems related to sleep, toileting and eating, hyperactivity, self injury and sensory difficulties. However, anxiety and tantrums were reported as frequent regardless of age, ability or type of schooling.
The high rates of frequent co-existing conditions as reported by the parents add significantly to the overall complexity of bringing up children with ASD. In future work, we will measure the severity and effect of these co-existing conditions on parents’ quality of life, and their experience of services available to assist in management. These findings have implications for appropriate support and intervention services for all children with ASD and their parents.
See more of: Epidemiology
See more of: Prevalence, Risk factors & Intervention