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April 15, 2024

Autism Awareness Month: Bringing Attention to Co-occurring Medical Conditions

As April returns each year, so does Autism Awareness Month, a time to shed light on the diverse spectrum of experiences within the autism community. At Gus Gear, a company born out of a mother's determination to enhance her son's quality of life, we understand the intricate challenges that come with navigating autism alongside co-occurring medical conditions. 

Gus Gear began over a decade ago when our founder and CEO, Sarah Palya, embarked on a quest to support her son, Gus, who faces a myriad of medical conditions, including autism, dysmotility, and intestinal failure, requiring specialized care and attention. Sarah's profound desire to provide Gus with a sense of normalcy amidst medical complexities led to the inception of Gus Gear.

The Link Between Autism & Certain Medical Conditions

It is absolutely critical for healthcare providers, including pediatricians, family doctors, and other clinicians to understand common medical co-occurrences linked with autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Here are several common comorbidities: 

  • Epilepsy
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Anxiety and depression

Epilepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, affects 25% - 40% of patients with ASD vs. 2% - 3% of the general population. Managing epilepsy alongside autism requires a multidisciplinary approach, encompassing medical interventions, behavioral therapies, and supportive devices. Symptoms include abrupt behavior changes (e.g., muscle stiffening, staring spells, involuntary movement, and sleep disturbances). 

Some studies say GI disorders, ranging from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) to inflammatory bowel disease, impact as many as 85% of people with ASD. Digestive complications tend to exacerbate behavioral symptoms and impact overall well-being. Symptoms can include diarrhea, constipation, gas, and/or painful bowel movement. With GERD in particular, the individual might avoid being horizontal, push out their jaw, tap their throat, strain their neck, or refuse food. 

Support For Those With Co-occurring Medical Conditions

As we move through Autism Awareness Month, let us not only celebrate the resilience and diversity within the autism community but also advocate for greater awareness and support for individuals facing co-occurring medical conditions like epilepsy and GI issues.

One of the paramount challenges Sarah encountered personally was safeguarding Gus's central venous catheter, an essential lifeline for his medical needs. Out of this necessity, our flagship product, the Central Line Vest, was born. Since then, Gus Gear has expanded its product line, offering solutions like the LOCK 3000 for feeding tubes and PD catheters, catering to the diverse needs of individuals facing similar challenges.

Together, let us pave the way for a more inclusive and supportive future where individuals of all abilities can thrive, empowered by compassion, understanding, and innovation. Join us in raising awareness, fostering acceptance, and championing inclusion this Autism Awareness Month and beyond.

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