Understanding health conditions associated with autism - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Understanding health conditions associated with autism

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"This is my room," said Colby Rosenblatt, 13.

Colby often has a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep.

"It has gotten progressively worse," mom Stephanie Udell-Rosenblatt said. "Couldn't get him to bed because he was scared to be alone."

More than half of people with autism like Colby have sleep disturbances. A new report from Autism Speaks also shows conditions such as epilepsy and gastrointestinal problems tend to go hand in hand with the disorder.

"Co-occurring conditions may be due to just sort of the interplay of autism and the environment. Others are definitely related though to biology," said Dr. Thomas Frazier, the chief science officer at Autism Speaks.

While children with autism are much more likely to have chronic GI issues, the report reveals there is little evidence that special diets, including gluten-free, help autism symptoms. Frazier says mental health issues like anxiety and ADHD are also common.

"We have to really think about them not as just having autism, but autism and whatever else is going on for them," Frazier said. "Addressing those other things can make a huge difference in their lives."

For kids like Colby, doctors say it's important to exercise, limit screen time and have a good bedtime routine. Colby's parents say a sleep tent helps.

"On a night where Colby gets great sleep, he's happy, feels like he is control of his body and emotions," his mother said.

They also use white noise and nature sounds to put him at ease.

The full report from Autism Speaks:

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