As parents of children and teenagers diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and concerned when facing the possibility your loved one may also have a co-occurring condition. While autism and co-occurring conditions can happen simultaneously, understanding these potential additional disorders can help you best support your loved one to address challenges that may arise due to their presence.
In this blog post by ABA Centers of Florida, we’ll explore autism and co-occurring conditions most common in autism and how caregivers can navigate these complicated experiences as a family. Additionally, we’ll explore common symptoms that may indicate co-occurring conditions in autism and strategies for addressing issues through evidence-based interventions like ABA therapy, also called Applied Behavior Analysis.
This knowledge can help many families and allies support loved ones with autism and co-occurring conditions throughout life. So, keep reading to learn more about these complex yet manageable circumstances. Click here for more information about ABA Therapy or the autism diagnostic process with ABA Centers of Florida.
Why Understanding Autism and Co-occurring Conditions Is Vital for Caregivers and Providers
For parents of neurodivergent loved ones, there is a lot to learn. Co-occurring disorders in autism, also known as comorbidities, refer to additional medical or mental health conditions that an individual may experience alongside autism. It is crucial to be aware of co-occurring disorders in autism because they can have a significant impact on a person’s overall well-being, behaviors, and how others treat them, which often complicates daily experiences.
Identifying co-occurring disorders can help healthcare providers tailor treatment strategies that address both autism and any other health issues, ultimately leading to better outcomes and quality of life for everyone affected. According to the Autism Research Institute, comorbidities common in autism may include:
- Anxiety Disorders
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Substance use disorders (SUDs)
- Gastrointestinal and immune function disorders
- Bipolar disorder (BP)
- Sleep disorders
Signs and Symptoms That May Present with Co-occurring Disorders in Autism
The symptoms of co-occurring conditions in autism can manifest in many ways. Some of the most common symptoms of co-occurring disorders in autism include excessive worry, general sadness, insomnia, and difficulties with impulse control. Additionally, many individuals may experience impairment in social functioning and communication and challenges with attention and focus.
For instance, a person with autism who also struggles with anxiety may find it challenging to socialize, participate in school or work, or take part in other activities they enjoy.
Understanding the overlap between autism and co-occurring disorders is crucial for providing the proper support because, in most cases, these disorders can further complicate autism and contribute to additional challenges for affected individuals and their families, making it more difficult for individuals to cope with everyday life.
It’s important to note that the causes of co-occurring disorders in autism are diverse and highly dependent on individual factors such as genetics, environment, and personal history.
ABA Therapy Can Help Autism and Co-occurring Conditions
ABA therapy has shown great promise in helping individuals with autism and their co-occurring conditions. By utilizing ABA techniques that help individuals learn skills step-by-step, ABA providers help clients with autism and co-occurring disorders systematically improve their communication, relationships, and self-care skills.
A central ABA intervention supporting co-occurring disorders in autism is the use of positive reinforcement. This technique involves identifying and reinforcing desired behaviors while ignoring or redirecting undesired behaviors.
For individuals who also live with anxiety and depression occurring with autism, ABA can help teach calming strategies and provide helpful techniques to promote relaxation and regulation. ABA providers may also employ visual aids like calendars, schedules, or social stories that give structure to reduce debilitating symptoms of co-occurring disorders in autism related to impulsive control, conceptualization, and extreme fear.
Similarly, for those with depression, ABA therapy encourages engagement in activities that bring joy and a sense of accomplishment, helping combat feelings of hopelessness and withdrawal often associated with depression.
Furthermore, early ABA intervention can help in identifying and addressing co-occurring disorders in autism at a younger age when the brain is most malleable and receptive to treatment, resulting in better outcomes and improvements in overall functioning for individuals with autism.
Co-occurring Conditions in Autism Are Not Uncommon, and You Can Manage Them!
Co-occurring conditions in autism are not uncommon, and caregivers and providers should do all they can to improve treatment outcomes and their loved ones’ experiences by acting early. Fortunately, with the right resources and a robust support system in place, kiddos with autism and co-occurring disorders can thrive and reach their full potential despite the challenges they face. Remember, you are not alone in this; help is always available.
Let’s continue advocating for acceptance and understanding of autism and co-occurring conditions to create a more inclusive society for all individuals. Furthermore, let’s work together to support our children and build a strong community of understanding and acceptance. Positive change starts with us!
More About ABA Centers of Florida
At ABA Centers of Florida, we understand how hard it can be for families managing life with autism and co-occurring conditions. We strive to provide the best possible support for individuals and families experiencing neurodiversity through our playful ABA therapy.
So, if you’re a parent of a child experiencing these challenges in Tampa, Orlando, or South Florida, know that you’re not alone and there is hope for a brighter future. There are ways to manage autism and co-occurring conditions.
Together, we can make a difference in the lives of neurodivergent individuals also affected by other complex conditions.