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Help! My Child Has Autism. Why Does He or She Cry All the Time?

Updated on January 20, 2017
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Toni helps autistic teens and adults reach their employment and relationship goals. She is the author of the book Autism Translated.

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Children with Autism Often Cry Inconsolably

Parents of children with autism often say things like:

  • "My child won't stop crying and I don't know how to help her."
  • "My son was born crying and hasn't stopped since."
  • "She cries even when I think she should be happy."

Four Steps to Help You Figure Out Why Your Child Is Crying

Determining the reason your child is upset can feel like an impossible task but there are a few steps that you can take to help your child and you feel better. Oftentimes, families and professionals alike overlook the following possible causes of ongoing crying. Keep in mind that your child may be fussy as a result of one or a combination of two or more of the following:

Step 1

Rule out any possible chronic (ongoing) medical condition such as:

  • Seizures,
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Headaches.
  • If your child does not have a history of being fussy but has suddenly become irritable or or goes through stages where they cry for long periods of time, check into the possibility of ear infections and toothaches as well.

It is important to find a specialist who has experience with autism to accurately diagnose a condition and address the unique needs of a child on the spectrum. There is some compelling research that shows drastic improvements in some children with autism who are successfully treated for GI problems. Seizures can cause physical discomfort but they can also disorient a child leaving them anxious and frustrated.

Step 2

Determine if your child has a sensory integration disorder which is causing discomfort or pain.

When the body does not accurately interpret sight, smell, taste touch or a sense of balance, that person is said to have a sensory integration (SI) problem. This can lead to oversensitivity to pain and/or the inability to feel pain. Individuals on the spectrum who are able to talk about their experiences report that sensory problems can cause irritability. Seemingly harmless items and situations such as seams in socks or the sound of a yogurt lid may cause a strong reaction in a child with autism.

While there is a need for more research on the subject, many individuals with autism and their families also report that successful occupational therapy by a therapist trained in sensory integration can be very helpful to relieve discomfort which can lead to crying and irritability.

Find a local occupational therapist trained in sensory integration to perform an evaluation to determine if this could be your child's problem.

Step 3

Address Your Child's Anxiety.

Children with autism have a tremendous amount of anxiety over things that would not upset a typical child to the same degree. For example, any change in routine (turning right after school to go to the bank instead of left to go home), meeting new people, going to new places, encountering new tastes or smells, even exposure to new toys may cause anxiety in your child. This anxiety can cause children with autism to cry.

It is important to note that severe forms of anxiety can mimic symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and therefore a child's anxiety may be overlooked. Adapting your child's environment, gradual exposure to things that cause anxiety, using visual supports and improving communication can all help decrease anxiety.

If you decide to explore the possibility of medication to treat symptoms of anxiety, it is important to find a psychiatrist or developmental pediatrician trained in autism. Children on the spectrum may need lower than average doses of medication and some medications prescribed to children with autism can actually increase anxiety levels.

Improving communication may decrease crying and tantrums
Improving communication may decrease crying and tantrums | Source

Step 4

Help your child improve their ability to communicate with you.

Imagine not being able to tell people what you need or how you feel? Imagine not understanding what the people around you are saying? All children with autism have some form of communication problem and this can lead to frustration, fear and ultimately fussy behavior. Qualified speech therapists can help determine the areas of communication that need improvement. Some children with autism also do very well with communication supports such as the Picture Exchange System (PECS), objects or other adaptive devices.

References

Horvath, K and Perman, J.A, "Autism and Gastrointestinal Symptoms" Current GastroenterologyReports 4.3 (2002) 251-258, print

Steingard, R, Zimnitzy, B et aI. "Sertraline Treatment of Transition-Associated Anxiety and Agitation in Children with Autistic Disorder" Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. Spring 1997, 7(1): 9-15. doi:10.1089/cap.1997.7.9

Shane, Howard, "Using Visual Scene Displays to Improve Communication and
Communication Instruction in Persons With Autism Spectrum Disorders" Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication 15.1 (2006) 7-13, print



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    • profile image

      Alisa Johnson 2 months ago

      I have a son who is 18month and all he does is cry... He had every test done but no the autism... He always hiting and hit his head... I just don't know what to do

    • profile image

      suren 9 months ago

      My 8year old autistic son cries every fort night for 1 week continuous. He's been doing this from April. He doesn't want to sleep. Loss of appetite. Doctors don't know the cause. Is there any body that ever experienced the same problem

    • tdalexander profile image
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      Toni Boucher 15 months ago

      brutishspoon- thanks for sharing your experience. What I have found is that most children get through these rough patches and develop coping mechanisms and ways to communicate as they get older.

    • brutishspoon profile image

      Amy 16 months ago from Darlington, England

      This is so typically me. I would cry at the slightest thing as a child.

    • tdalexander profile image
      Author

      Toni Boucher 23 months ago

      Fussiness and crying all the time can be a sign of ASD. It can also be a sign of another unrecognized illness or medical condition or a combination. I recommend ruling out any possible underlying medical conditions with a good pediatrician and making sure that your husband's grand-baby is meeting their developmental milestones on time. How old is your husband's grandchild?

    • profile image

      sherry 23 months ago

      My husband grandbaby cry all the time could it have to due to aspeberger

    • tdalexander profile image
      Author

      Toni Boucher 3 years ago

      I'm glad you found this useful and I hope it will help make things easier for you and your daughter. It can be very hard (for you and your daughter) to deal with constant crying. I wish you both he best!

    • profile image

      matt 3 years ago

      I found this site when I tried to find out more aboit asd. It is useful coz I realised that my 15 yr old daughter is not the only one having this problem. It is quite tiring and embarrasing sometime. She just cry all the time. If not crying, she will jump around. I guess they just have lots of energy.

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 3 years ago from Ireland

      Good practical advice. Shared on Twitter and FB.

    • profile image

      pat 3 years ago

      I'd like to say this was helpful. Though it does point out some probable causes, it does not address them all. My child is not crying from pain, but for the fact she is not able to do what she wants, when she wants.

      She likes to go outside walking, and she'd like to do this ALL day long.

      When it's time to go home, she is inconsolable, and will cry for hours on end, beating the doors, twisting the locked knobs, and screaming at the top of her lungs in the most excruciating pitch you've ever heard. It can drive you to madness.

      No distraction will calm her. Eventually she does get hungry, and will calm down to eat, but this generally takes at minimum 2 or 3 hours.

      Then it all begins again the next morning.

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 4 years ago from Ireland

      Very helpful.

    • tdalexander profile image
      Author

      Toni Boucher 5 years ago

      Thank you!

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 5 years ago from new jersey

      Great hub! good info!

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