OBJECTIVES

To develop a practical, readily applied algorithm for primary health care providers to identify, evaluate, and manage constipation in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

METHODS

The Gastroenterology Committee of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN), a multisite consortium of centers dedicated to improving standards of medical care for children with ASDs, guided the development of the constipation algorithm through expert opinion and literature review. The algorithm was finalized based on results of field testing by nongastrointestinal, ATN autism medical specialists at 4 ATN sites. A systematic review and grading of the literature pertaining to constipation and children with ASDs was also performed.

RESULTS

Consensus among the ATN Gastroenterology Committee identified that in children with ASDs, (1) subtle or atypical symptoms might indicate the presence of constipation; (2) screening, identification, and treatment through a deliberate approach for underlying causes of constipation is appropriate; (3) diagnostic-therapeutic intervention can be provided when constipation is documented; and (4) careful follow-up after any intervention be performed to evaluate effectiveness and tolerance of the therapy. Literature review revealed limited evidence for the clinical evaluation or treatment strategies of children with ASD and constipation.

CONCLUSIONS

Constipation and its underlying etiology have the potential to be effectively identified and managed using a systematic approach. Lack of evidence on this topic in the literature emphasizes the need for research.

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