Understanding the Medical Comorbidities of Autism and the Common Behavioral Presentation of Symptoms


Parents, scientists, and clinicians are recognizing that behavioral and other manifestations of autism can have root causes in physiological conditions in parts of the body other than the brain. Medical comorbidities that often occur in children with autism require medical intervention before behavioral therapies. These conditions include gastrointestinal disorders (reflux/diarrhea); mitochondrial disease; seizure disorders (febrile/epileptic); sleeping disorders; impaired sensory processing; and more.

Research has shown that early diagnosis is crucial for a positive prognosis for children with autism. The behavioral presentation of symptoms can help caregivers recognize vulnerability to an autism diagnosis. Likewise, vulnerable children may be identified earlier and monitored at a younger age, allowing preventative intervention -- this includes limiting environmental exposures. Medically stabilizing children with physiologically complex autism will improve educational and therapeutic outcomes and increase overall quality of life.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

1. Understand the revision of the diagnosis of autism in the DSM V.

2. Identify the common medical comorbidities of autism

3. Identify the common medical “red flags” of autism

4. Identify behavioral symptoms that could be indicative of medical issues

5. Understand the various medical sub-specialties involved in the care of children with medically complex autism.

Sheri A. Marino, MA, CCC-SLP

Sheri A. Marino, MA, CCC-SLP, received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from Rutgers University (1991) and attained her Master of Arts degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Montclair University (1993). Her clinical experiences included the University Hospital at UMDNJ in Newark, NJ, where she provided evaluation and treatment services in the Depart-ment of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Sheri was trained in applied behavior analysis at the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, New Brunswick, NJ, where she treated children on the autism spectrum for 5 years. Horizon Pediatric Consultants, LLC, was founded in 1993 when Sheri ventured into private practice. For 10 years, she coordinated home programs in New York, New Jersey, and London, England. A member of a trans-disciplinary team, she conducted evaluation and treatment services for the birth-three-year-old population at the Milestones Child Development Center, Jersey City, NJ. As part of the Expansion Team, she provided homebound services to medically fragile infants and infants affected by pre-natal drug exposure.
Currently, Sheri is the executive director of The Autism Think Tank, N.J. 501(c)(3), where she coordinates medical videoconferences with a team of distinguished physicians who collaborate on medically complex cases of autism around the globe. She is solely responsible for all fundraising, community outreach, continuing education, marketing, and public speaking engagements.
A pediatric health advisor for the Focus for Health Foundation, Sheri contributes her clinical expertise authoring articles on autism and other chronic health issues for website content. She is a published author in Autism Parenting Magazine and on ZLiving.com. Sheri’s professional experiences help guide the Foundation’s mission addressing chronic health issues related to environmental causes.
In 2004, Sheri founded Rocking Horse Rehab, a pediatric rehabilitation and family wellness center specializing in speech/physical/occupational therapy, psychotherapy, and equine assisted therapies. Rocking Horse Rehab treats children with various disabilities, including cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy, brain tumors, autism, rare syndromes, neuromuscular and psychiatric disorders. Rocking Horse Rehab was selected as “NJ’s Favorite Kids’ Docs” in NJ Family Magazine in 2009 and 2011 and as Hospital Newspaper's Pediatric Rehab and Family Wellness Center of the Month in 2009, 2010 and 2013. A pediatric speech pathologist, Sheri has been voted as “NJ’s Favorite Kids’ Docs” in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Sheri serves on the advisory board for Autism Family Services, NJ, with other leaders in the field of autism. She is an international speaker on autism and has presented for Haven International in Ghana, Africa, Autism One in Chicago, Princeton University, Touro College/NYC, Seton Hall University, NJ Speech and Hearing Association, and PATH International. She has been a guest on the “Autism with Dr. Andy” radio show out of Manhattan Beach, CA, and has been interviewed and filmed by CBS News, NBC News, NJN and multiple cable networks.