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  Previous issue (2021. Vol. 19, no. 4)

Autism and Developmental Disorders

Publisher: Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

ISSN (printed version): 1994-1617

ISSN (online): 2413-4317


License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Published since 2003

Published quarterly

Free of fees
Open Access Journal


Gastrointestinal Tract Symptomatology in Adults with Pica and Autism 206


Alexander D.D.
PhD, Principal Investigator, Quality Assurance Study, Lanterman Developmental Center, USA

Lunde S.E.
PhD, Director of Research, Lanterman Developmental Center, USA

Berger D.E.
PhD, Professor of Psychology, Claremont Graduate University, USA

This study investigated pica behavior in those with and without autism in relation to gastrointestinal (GI) tract symptomatology and disease. A chart review of 64 residential adults with developmental disabilities indicated that individuals with pica had more GI tract diseases, and those with autism and pica had a higher rate of GI diseases compared to those with autism and no pica behavior. These data suggest that individuals with both autism and pica disorders may be a phenotypic subgroup in the autistic spectrum characterized by GI symptomatology, requiring a clinical algorithm for categorization and effective treatment. A behavior-analytic model is presented that conceptualizes pica as part of a chain of events that begins with exploratory behavior and culminates in GI symptomatology and disease. Issues of sensory processing are addressed within this model. Individuals exhibiting pica may benefit from gastrointestinal evaluation, including assessment of the microbiome, and, if indicated, microbiota transfer therapy to

Keywords: pica, autism spectrum disorder, GI diseases, microbiome, microbiota transfer therapy, comorbidity, prevalence, phenotype, sensory processing.

Column: Research & Diagnosis of ASD


Acknowledgements. These data are from a Medical Quality Assurance Study conducted at Lanterman Developmental Center which closed June 30, 2015. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Medical Staff and the Health Service Specialists of Lanterman Developmental Center. Tony Rojas, Catherine Godkins, and Anthony D. Dinardo are acknowledged for help in gathering information for the Quality Assurance Study. William M. Sparks is acknowledged for help with the statistical analysis. We also thank Kathryn Grossman and Sandy Middleton for their technical help in preparation of this manuscript. The authors would like to thank Dr. Stephen M. Edelson for his valuable suggestions on an earlier version of this manuscript. The ideas expressed are those of the authors and are not to be construed as necessarily reflecting the policy of the Department of Developmental Services.

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