People with autism more likely to experience chronic pain, study reveals

Children with autism are around twice as likely to experience chronic pain, a major new study has revealed.

The research, published by the University of Michigan, is the first to show that pain affects autistic people differently compared to the general population.

The study comes after previous papers suggested that people with autism may have different experiences of pain, with hypersensitivity and gastrointestinal problems frequently associated with autism.

Testing these theories, the latest study used data from 2016/17 children’s health questionnaire in the US. The poll involved more than 50,000 children aged six to 17, of which 1,472 had autism.

The researchers found that around 16 per cent of children with autism reported “chronic” or “repeated” pain in the past 12 months, while only eight per cent of children without autism said the same.

Commenting on the study, lead author Danielle Shapiro said the findings reveal that pain is “a really common experience for kids with autism”.

“They’re experiencing physical pain, even though it’s not typically thought of as a core feature of [autism],” she said.

Experts are now calling for greater vigilance among the health sector when identifying pain in people with autism.

According to the latest statistics, around one in every 100 people is diagnosed with autism is the UK. However, some 63 per cent of parents of autistic children believe their child is not in a school which best supports them and their needs, while seven in 10 say they are not getting the help they need from social services.

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