Rigid-compulsive behaviors are associated with mixed bowel symptoms in autism spectrum disorder.
Based on clinical experience, we hypothesized that rigid-compulsive behaviors are associated with severe constipation and co-occurring diarrhea or underwear staining in children with autism spectrum disorder. Using data from the Autism Treatment Network, we evaluated the association between these gastrointestinal symptoms and measures of rigid compulsive behavior in children ages 2-17. Following statistical correction, four of five primary measures were significantly associated with constipation and diarrhea or underwear staining, including parental report of repetitive behavior, parental report of compulsive behavior, clinician diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and report of rituals observed on the autism diagnostic observation schedule. This association could point to a causal connection between these symptoms or to a common biological pathway that impacts both gut and brain.