10 Autism Complications You Should Know

Autism can lead to a number of other complications that require attention and management.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
September 18, 2023
min read

Top 10 Autism Complications

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. It is a spectrum disorder, which means that it affects individuals differently, and the severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe.

While autism is primarily associated with challenges in social interaction and communication, it can also lead to a number of other complications that require attention and management. Here are 10 autism complications you should know:

  1. Sensory Processing Issues: Many individuals with autism have difficulty processing sensory information, which can lead to over or under sensitivity to sounds, touch, taste, smell, and sight. This can cause distress and even physical pain.
  2. Sleep Disorders: Sleep disturbances are common in individuals with autism, which can impact their daily functioning. This can include difficulty falling asleep, frequent night waking, and early waking.
  3. Gastrointestinal Issues: Individuals with autism are more likely to experience gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. These issues can be related to diet, sensory issues, and anxiety.
  4. Anxiety and Depression: Anxiety and depression are common in individuals with autism, particularly as they get older. This can be related to difficulty with social interaction, sensory processing, and changes in routine.
  5. Motor Coordination Issues: Many individuals with autism have difficulty with motor coordination, which can affect their ability to participate in physical activities and sports.
  6. Aggressive Behaviors: Some individuals with autism may exhibit aggressive behaviors, which can be related to difficulty with communication, sensory processing, and frustration with routine changes.
  7. Epilepsy: Epilepsy is more common in individuals with autism than in the general population. Seizures can be related to changes in routine, sensory overload, and medication side effects.
  8. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): ADHD is common in individuals with autism, which can lead to difficulty with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
  9. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is more common in individuals with autism than in the general population. This can lead to repetitive behaviors, rituals, and intrusive thoughts.
  10. Speech and Language Issues: Many individuals with autism have difficulty with speech and language, which can affect their ability to communicate with others. This can lead to frustration and social isolation.

What Causes Autism Complications?

While the exact cause of autism is not yet known, researchers believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may play a role in its development. Some studies suggest that certain genes may increase the risk of developing autism, while other studies have suggested that exposure to toxins during pregnancy or early childhood may also be a contributing factor.

Not everyone with autism will experience the same complications, and some may not experience any at all. However, understanding the potential complications associated with autism can help individuals and their families better manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

How To Reduce The Chances Of Getting Autism Complications

While it is not possible to completely prevent autism complications, there are steps that individuals and families can take to reduce the chances of experiencing them. Here are a few strategies that may be helpful:

  1. Early Intervention: Early intervention services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral therapy can help address some of the challenges associated with autism and reduce the likelihood of developing complications later on.
  2. Establishing Routines: Establishing predictable routines can help individuals with autism feel more comfortable and reduce anxiety. This may include consistent meal times, bedtimes, and daily activities.
  3. Sensory-Friendly Environments: Creating sensory-friendly environments can also help reduce anxiety and improve quality of life for individuals with autism. This may include using low lighting, reducing noise levels, and providing calming sensory tools such as weighted blankets or fidget toys.
  4. Nutritious Diet: A nutritious diet can help support overall health and well-being in individuals with autism. Some studies have suggested that certain dietary changes such as eliminating gluten or dairy products may also be helpful for reducing symptoms.
  5. Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to be beneficial for individuals with autism by improving motor coordination, reducing anxiety, and promoting overall physical health.

By implementing these strategies, individuals with autism and their families can work towards reducing the chances of experiencing complications associated with this disorder.

Medical Conditions Associated with Autism

In addition to the complications mentioned earlier, there are several medical conditions that are commonly associated with autism. These conditions can have a significant impact on an individual's health and quality of life and may require specialized treatment.

One such condition is gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. Research has shown that individuals with autism are more likely to experience GI symptoms than the general population. This may be due in part to differences in gut bacteria or sensitivity to certain foods. Symptoms can include chronic constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, reflux, and vomiting.

Another condition that is often seen in individuals with autism is seizures or epilepsy. Studies have found that as many as one-third of individuals with autism will experience a seizure at some point in their lives. Seizures can range from mild to severe and may be related to changes in routine, sensory overload, or medication side effects.

Sleep disorders are also common among individuals with autism. Many people with the disorder struggle with falling asleep, staying asleep throughout the night, or waking up too early. These sleep disturbances can lead to fatigue during the day and impact overall health and well-being.

Other medical conditions that may be associated with autism include allergies, autoimmune disorders (such as celiac disease), metabolic disorders (such as phenylketonuria), migraines, and asthma.

It's important for healthcare providers to be aware of these potential comorbidities so they can provide appropriate screening and care for individuals on the autism spectrum.


It is important to understand that these complications are not present in every individual with autism. However, it is important to be aware of them and seek appropriate support and management if they do arise. With the right care, individuals with autism can lead fulfilling lives and reach their full potential.

steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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