Constipation and autism

I can just see parents of autistic children reading this heading and feeling broken even thinking about how their children struggle and how they struggle.

Constipation and diarrhea are two very real problems for autistic children and for their parents!  In most autism households the subject of poop gets discussed daily.

As a mother of an autistic girl – I have watched my child struggle with poop since the day she was born and even now, 13 years later, we still have our challenges. 

Autism or Aspergers Syndrome and gastrointestinal problems tend to go hand-in-hand for many kids on the spectrum.  If the bowels are not moving daily, it can be very painful for the child and toxic for overall health.

Often parents of children on the spectrum do not know that their children are constipated because their child is having daily bowel movements – the child is simply just not excreting enough stool.

Whilst constipation is typically defined as bowel movements that occur less than every other or every third day.  Constipation can also mean large and hard stools or soft stools that are not excreted.

Problems that are known to be associated with constipation can include but are not limited to:

  • Sleep problems
  • Aggression or aggressive behavior tendencies
  • Toe-walking
  • Self-injurious behavior

Management of constipation in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder:

  • Making changes to your child’s diet can help to ease constipation. If your child however has a very limited palate and or if they are a fussy eater – then making changes to the diet will be close to impossible;
  • Try to introduce fiber into their diet (but only a little at a time);
  • Water, prune juice and pure 100% mango juice is a well-known remedy for constipation. You may also want to keep an eye on liquid consumption;
  • Limit the intake of dairy products;
  • Get active with your child as decreased activity can lead to constipation;

For children on the autism spectrum first try diet changes, introduce a few new foods if you can, get active, drink more liquids and then only consider medication.

Autism behavioral toileting programs can also be introduced by a good ABA therapist which will include stories, pictures and games. We recommend a combined approach to the problem at all times.

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Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.