Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Autism Spectrum Disorders


  • Jenna Logan Schuppener University of Florida
  • Jennifer Harrison Elder University of Florida College of Nursing



autism spectrum disorder, gastrointestinal symptomatology, gut-brain connection


The purpose of this study was to characterize individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), who are part of a larger ASD study, in order to determine clinically useful ways to evaluate gastrointestinal (GI) symptomology. Thirty-three children (ages 3-16) were recruited from a variety of community agencies. Potential participants were screened using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Parental informed consent was obtained from all participants and child assent when appropriate. Parents completed the Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale, Bristol Stool Chart (BSC), and sociodemographic form. Of the 33 participants, 14 were currently experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms and had abnormal bowel movements. Seven had a history of gastrointestinal symptoms and abnormal bowel movements; two parents were unsure of their gastrointestinal health. According to the BSC rescore, 13 participants reported hard stools, 14 had normal stools, and six had loose stools. Moderate correlations were found among many GI symptoms (r33= .396 - .751) indicating that these could be clustered to create a profile. These findings are clinically significant because GI symptoms in ASD are difficult to diagnose due to communication and social impairments and may go undiagnosed and untreated.  Further characterizing GI symptomology in this population is a logical role for nurse researchers since nurses are often on the front line intervening within the ASD population.



Author Biography

Jenna Logan Schuppener, University of Florida

College of Nursing, Undergraduate Research Scholar


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