Information common to all health topics, such as "What is it?" and "How many people are affected?," is available in the Condition Information section. In addition, health topics frequently have questions that pertain only to that topic. These other FAQs are answered in this section.
What if my child with ASD can't tell me something's wrong?
Problems with communication are a main feature of ASD. These problems can make it hard for children with autism to tell their parents and caregivers how they feel-including whether or not they feel sick or are in pain. They might not be able to explain in words that their stomach hurts or they have a headache. Instead, they might show how they feel by how they act.
For example, a child with ASD might:
- Slap or punch his head to show that he has a headache
- Try to eat large amounts of food she likes to help ease the pain of a stomachache
- Be restless and unable to sit still if he has an earache, as if trying to get away from the pain
Parents, caregivers, and health care providers need to pay attention to behaviors so that they know what is normal for a certain child. If the child does not usually hit his head, but then starts to do so, he might have a headache. In some cases, once the pain goes away, the behavior will stop or be reduced.
It's important for parents, caregivers, and health care providers to work together to ensure that people with autism are getting the best care.
Is there a link between ASD and vaccines?
Currently, there is no scientific evidence that vaccines or any material used to make or preserve vaccines causes or contributes to ASD.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), another agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, conducts and supports most of the federal studies on vaccines and autism. The CDC also provides the most accurate and up-to-date information about research on ASD and vaccines, including studies supported by the federal government and those funded independently.
Visit the CDC's website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/topics.html for more specific information.
Are there disorders or conditions associated with ASD?
Many people with ASD also have one or more other disorders. According to the CDC, about 10% of children with an ASD have an identifiable genetic, neurologic, or metabolic disorder.1,2
Some of these co-occurring disorders can include:
- Epilepsy or seizure disorder. Up to 39% of people with autism also show signs of epilepsy by adulthood.3 In most cases, medication can control and treat epilepsy effectively.
- Tuberous sclerosis. Between 1% and 4% of people with ASD also have tuberous sclerosis. This is a disorder that causes non-cancerous tumors to grow in the brain, kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, and skin.4,5 People with tuberous sclerosis have some of the same symptoms as some people with ASD, including developmental delay, behavior problems, and seizures.
- Fragile X syndrome. Nearly 2.1% of people with ASD also have Fragile X syndrome, the most commonly inherited form of intellectual disability.6,7 It is caused by a mutation in the gene called FMR1, located on the X chromosome.
- Cognitive impairment. About 41% of children with ASD have a cognitive impairment (problems with thinking, remembering, concentrating, or being creative) or an IQ of 70 or lower8.
- Psychological conditions. Other common conditions include anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.9,10,11
Many people with ASD also have other, less serious conditions. Sleep disorders, allergies, and digestive problems are common in people with ASD, just as in people without autism. Many of these problems are treatable. Treatment for these conditions won't cure autism, but it can improve the quality of life for people who have autism and for their families.
Is secretin a cure for autism?
Secretin (pronounced sih-CREE-tin) is a hormone that the small intestine makes naturally to help digestion.
Currently, the FDA approves a single dose of secretin only to diagnose digestive problems. Secretin is not FDA-approved to diagnose ASD or to treat autism or autism symptoms.
In the 1990s, news reports described a few people with ASD whose behavior improved after getting secretin during a test for digestive problems.
|A placebo is a substance that looks like a real drug (such as secretin) but does not actually contain any of the drug.|
However, a series of clinical trials funded by the NICHD and conducted through the Network on the Neurobiology and Genetics of Autism: Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism found no difference in improvement between those taking secretin and those taking placebo.12,13 In fact, of the five case-controlled clinical trials published on secretin, not one showed secretin as any better than placebo, no matter what the dosage or frequency. No study completed since this initial group of studies has shown a different outcome.
- Cohen, D., Pichard, N., Tordjman, S., Baumann, C., Burglen, L., Excoffier, E., et al.(2005). Specific genetic disorders and autism: clinical contribution towards their identification. Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders, 35(1), 103-16. As cited in: CDC (see Reference 11). [top]
- Kumar, R. A., & Christian, S. L. (2009). Genetics of autism spectrum disorders. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports, 9(3), 188-97. As cited in: CDC (see Reference 11). [top]
- Tuchman, R., & Rapin, I. (2002). Epilepsy in autism. Lancet Neurology, 1, 352-358. [top]
- Smalley, S. L.. (1998). Autism and tuberous sclerosis. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 28(5), 407-414. [top]
- Wiznitzer, M. (2004). Autism and tuberous sclerosis. Journal of Child Neurology, 19(9), 675-679. [top]
- Kielinen, M., Rantala, H., Timonen, E., Linna, S. L., & Moilanen, I. (2004). Associated medical disorders and disabilities in children with autistic disorder: A population-based study. Autism, 8(1), 49-60. [top]
- Goodlin-Jones, B. L, Tassone, F., Gane, L. W., & Hagerman, R. J.. (2004). Autistic spectrum disorder and the fragile X premutation. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 25(6), 392-398. [top]
- Diagnostic and Statistics Manual, 4th Edition. (1994). American Psychiatric Association: Washington, DC. [top]
- White, S. W., Oswald, D., Ollendick, T., & Scahill, L. (2009). Anxiety in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Clinical Psychology Review, 29(3), 216-229. [top]
- Leyfer, O., Folstein, S. E., Bacalman, S., Davis, N. O., Dinh, E., Morgan, J., et al. (2006). Comorbid psychiatric disorders in children with autism: Interview development and rates of disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36, 849-861. [top]
- Simonoff, E., Pickles, A., Charman, T., Chandler, S., Loucas, T., & Baird, G. (2008). Psychiatric disorders in children with autism spectrum disorders: Prevalence, comorbidity, and associated factors in a population-derived sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 47(8), 921-929. [top]
- Owley, T., McMahon, W., Cook, E. H., Laulhere, T., South, M., Mays, L. Z., et al. (2001). Multisite, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of porcine secretin in autism. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(11), 1293-1299. [top]
- Owley, T., Steele, E., Corsello, C., Risi, S., McKaig, K., Lord, C., et al. (1999). Double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of secretin for the treatment of autistic disorder. Medscape General Medicine, Oct 6, E2. [top]