Health Care

Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder have all the same preventative and well care needs as all children.

Working with your child’s doctor to make your son or daughter’s medical experience productive is important as your child grows and changes. Often more time is required for appointments. Introducing your child to office staff, and familiarizing your child with the office may be helpful if your child has difficulties with social interaction and/or communication.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning it has many forms that affect people in a variety of ways. It has been noted that these following health issues may also be experienced by those with ASD.

Genetic Disorders

Some children with autism have an identifiable genetic condition that affects brain development. These genetic disorders include Fragile X syndrome, Angelman syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, chromosome 15 duplication syndrome and other single-gene and chromosomal disorders. Some of these syndromes have characteristic features or family histories. If this is your experience then your doctor may refer your child to a geneticist or neurologist for further testing.

Autism and Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a brain disorder marked by recurring seizures, or convulsions. The autism-epilepsy overlap appears to be most common among people who also have intellectual disability. (Amiet 2008)

Identifying and effectively treating epilepsy is critically important. While the association between epilepsy and autism is well known, diagnosis can be challenging because seizures are not always outwardly evident, and many people with autism have difficulty recognizing and communicating their symptoms. Like autism, epilepsy exists on a spectrum. Severity varies widely. In addition, experts now distinguish seizures by where they begin in the brain. This is important because it affects the choice of seizure medication, the potential benefit of epilepsy surgery, future outcomes and possible causes. (Fisher 2017)

Richard Morse, MD, Pediatric Neurologist and Epileptologist at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon NH, and Stephen Mott, MD, Developmental Cognitive Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Neurology & Pediatrics at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH discuss epilepsy and autism spectrum disorders, and aspects to consider regarding co-occurrence.

EEG Tool Kits from AS-ATN/AIR-P

Parents and providers may have concerns or questions about how to help children with ASD successfully complete EEGs, which can be very difficult for individuals with autism. Two tool kits (one for parents and one for providers) are now available through Autism Speaks providing information about the EEG procedure, how a child’s ASD diagnosis might impact his or her experience and how to help children with ASD successfully prepare for and complete an EEG.

Download the tool kits:

Having an Electroencephalogram (EEG) A Guide for Parents

Having an Electroencephalogram (EEG) A Guide for Providers

For more information about Epilepsy see our Epilepsy pages

Gastrointestnal (GI) disorders

Many parents report gastrointestinal (GI) problems in their children with autism. Pain caused by GI issues is sometimes recognized because of a change in a child’s behavior, such as an increase in self-soothing behaviors like rocking or outbursts of aggression or self-injury. If your child has similar symptoms, you will want to consult a gastroenterologist. Your child’s physician[TO1]  or health insurance company should help you find an appropriate specialist. More information is available at Autism Speaks.

Sleep dysfunction

Is your child having trouble getting to sleep or sleeping through the night? Sleep problems are common in children and adolescents with autism. Sometimes sleep issues may be caused by medical issues or may need to be managed with behavioral interventions such as limiting the amount of sleep during the day and establishing regular bedtime routines. To rule out medical issues or to address behavioral interventions consult with your child’s physician. More information is available at Autism Speaks.

Mental / Behavioral Health

Oftentimes a child diagnosed with ASD may receive an additional diagnosis such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD and anxiety are quite common and addressing these diagnoses properly can help your child make great strides. The classic symptoms of ADHD include chronic problems with inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. However, these or similar symptoms can likewise result from autism. For this reason, it is important that evaluation be made by someone with expertise in both disorders. In regards to anxiety, children with autism express anxiety or nervousness in many of the same ways as typically developing children. It is important for your child to be evaluated by a professional who has expertise in both autism and anxiety so he or she can provide the best treatment options for your child. More information is available at Autism Speaks.

Oral Health

Dental Guide – Oral health is a very important component of healthy daily living. But for some children with autism, oral health habits can be challenging. Autism Speaks has teamed up with Colgate and Philips-Sonicare to create a dental guide and video to provide tips for improving oral hygiene at home, as well as information about how parents and dental professionals can make a visit to the dentist’s office less stressful and more productive. More information is available at Autism Speaks.

Insurance Coverage in NH

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 417-E:2 (2010 N.H. Laws, Chap. 363; HB 569 of 2010)
Clarifies and defines treatment of pervasive developmental disorder or autism, as required under N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 417-E:1, to include professional services and treatment programs, including applied behavioral analysis, prescribed pharmaceuticals (subject to the terms and conditions of the policy), direct or consultative services provided by specified licensed professionals, and services provided by licensed speech, occupation or physical therapists. The policy, contract or certificate may limit coverage for applied behavior analysis to $36,000 per year for children 0 to 12 years of age, and $27,000 from ages 13 to 21.

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 417-E:1
Requires specified insurers that provide benefits for disease or sickness to provide benefits for treatment and diagnosis of certain biologically-based mental illness, including pervasive developmental disorder or autism, under the same terms and conditions and which are no less extensive than coverage provided for any other type of health care for physical illness.

July 2014 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a Clarification of Medicaid Coverage of Services to Children with Autism (ASD CMS Guidance), which made clear that states must provide evidence-based treatments for children with ASD in Medicaid.

For more information about healthcare financing please see our NH Medicaid page.