Jan Gambino Jan Gambino's Blog

Ask the Reflux Mom 10-24-08


What is the connection between Acid Reflux and Autism?


Children with autism often have significant digestive issues including acid reflux. It is estimated that up to 76% of children with autism had one digestive issue including: reflux, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, belching and abdominal pain. In addition, approximately 64% of children with autism had two or more of the digestive issues listed.

Clearly there is a connection between acid reflux and autism. When I spoke to a researcher who is studying medical issues related to autism and reflux, she indicated that more research is needed. AutismSpeaks is currently funding research grants so that doctors and researchers can learn more about this important area and offer children and their families improved treatments.

So, if you have a baby with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, should you worry that he/she will have autism?

Just because your baby has reflux doesn’t mean you should be more concerned about autism than any other parent. It is important to remember that reflux is common in infancy and most babies outgrow the condition in the first year or two of life. Your doctor monitors development during well check ups by asking you questions and observing your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening every child for autism twice before age 2 during routine check ups.

My child has autism. What do I need to know?

At the same time, more and more children are being diagnosed with autism (one out of 150 children). If your child does have a diagnosis of autism, you will need to be on the lookout for the common digestive issues and seek assistance from the doctor. A child with autism often has sensory issues that may impact his/her ability to process digestive and pain signals from reflux and other digestive issues. In addition, there is evidence that many children with autism have gluten and dairy intolerances, picky eating, limited food preferences, PICA (eating non food items) and sensory issues related to eating. Your observations of feeding and digestion at home will help the doctor to recommend treatments and the need to see a Pediatric Gastroenterologist or feeding specialist such as a Speech Language Pathologist or an Occupational Therapist.

Have a question about autism and reflux?

I have worked with infants and children with feeding issues related to autism and other developmental issues so let me know if you have questions and concerns about feeding your child and managing reflux and autism at home. I would be happy to hear your story and offer ideas and strategies.


Check with your
doctor first!