Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism: How Are They Connected?

Do you or someone you know have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and Autism? We'll explore the link between these conditions and what you need to know.

judah schiller
Judah Schiller
December 1, 2023
Published On
December 1, 2023

Understanding Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and Autism are two separate conditions that can coexist in some individuals. Understanding each condition and the connection between them is essential for parents navigating these complex medical and developmental challenges.

What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a group of genetic connective tissue disorders characterized by joint hypermobility, skin hyperextensibility, and tissue fragility. There are several subtypes of EDS, each with its own specific features and genetic causes. The primary underlying issue in EDS is the production and structure of collagen, a protein that provides strength and elasticity to various tissues in the body.

Individuals with EDS may experience a range of symptoms, including joint hypermobility, chronic pain, easy bruising, and skin that is soft and stretchy. Some subtypes of EDS can also affect the cardiovascular system and internal organs.

What is Autism?

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. It is a complex condition with a wide range of symptoms and levels of severity. Autism is typically diagnosed in early childhood, and the symptoms can vary significantly from person to person.

Common characteristics of autism include difficulties in social interactions, repetitive behaviors, sensory sensitivities, and challenges with verbal and nonverbal communication. Autism is a lifelong condition, and individuals with autism can lead fulfilling lives with the right support and interventions.

The Connection between Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism

Research suggests a potential connection between Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism, although the exact nature of this relationship is still being explored. Studies have found a higher prevalence of joint hypermobility, a common feature of EDS, in individuals with autism. Joint hypermobility in autism has been associated with sensory processing differences, motor coordination difficulties, and increased risk of musculoskeletal problems.

In addition to joint hypermobility, there may be overlapping genetic factors between EDS and autism. Some genes involved in collagen production and connective tissue development have been implicated in both conditions. However, it's important to note that not all individuals with EDS have autism, and not all individuals with autism have EDS.

Understanding the connection between Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism can help parents and healthcare professionals provide more comprehensive care and support for individuals who have both conditions. Collaborating with a multidisciplinary team of specialists can ensure that the unique needs of individuals with EDS and autism are addressed effectively.

Symptoms and Challenges

Understanding the symptoms and challenges associated with both Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and Autism is essential for parents navigating these conditions in their children. Let's explore the common symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, the common symptoms of Autism, and how these conditions can present overlapping symptoms and challenges.

Common Symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a group of genetic connective tissue disorders that affect the body's collagen production. While EDS can manifest in various ways, there are some common symptoms that parents should be aware of:


  • Joint hypermobility
  • Fragile or stretchy skin
  • Easy bruising
  • Chronic pain
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Joint dislocations or subluxations
  • Delayed wound healing

It's important to note that the severity and combination of symptoms can vary among individuals with EDS.

Common Symptoms of Autism

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects social interaction, communication, and behavior. The symptoms of Autism can vary widely, but some common signs to look out for include:


  • Difficulty with social interactions and communication
  • Repetitive behaviors or restricted interests
  • Sensory sensitivities
  • Difficulty with transitions or changes in routine
  • Difficulty understanding and expressing emotions
  • Delayed speech and language development
  • Unusual reactions to sensory stimuli

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that the symptoms and their severity can differ from person to person.

Overlapping Symptoms and Challenges

EDS and Autism can present overlapping symptoms and challenges, making it complex to distinguish between the two conditions. Some of the shared symptoms and challenges include:

  • Sensory sensitivities: Both EDS and Autism can involve heightened sensory sensitivities, such as sensitivity to light, sound, touch, or smell. Strategies for managing sensory sensitivities can be beneficial for individuals with both conditions.
  • Motor difficulties: Joint hypermobility and low muscle tone are common in both EDS and Autism, leading to challenges with motor skills and coordination. Occupational therapy and physical therapy can assist in improving motor skills and enhancing daily functioning.
  • Communication difficulties: While communication difficulties in Autism are well-known, individuals with EDS may also experience challenges related to speech and language development due to oral motor issues. Speech therapy can be helpful in addressing these communication challenges.

Understanding the overlapping symptoms and challenges can aid parents in seeking appropriate evaluations and interventions for their children. It's vital to consult with healthcare professionals who specialize in both EDS and Autism to ensure comprehensive care. Additionally, connecting with support groups and communities can provide valuable insights and shared experiences.

The Impact of EDS and Autism on Mental Health, Including Anxiety and Depression

Living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and Autism can take a toll on mental health. Both conditions can cause chronic pain, social isolation, and difficulty with daily activities. These challenges can lead to anxiety and depression.

People with EDS may experience anxiety related to chronic pain or mobility issues. They may also experience depression related to the limitations that come with their condition. The constant need for medical attention and the feeling of being misunderstood by others can also contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.

Similarly, people with Autism may experience anxiety related to social interactions, sensory overload, or changes in routine. They may also experience depression due to feelings of isolation or difficulty understanding emotions.

It's important for individuals living with EDS and Autism to prioritize self-care and seek support from healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable about both conditions. Mental health treatment may include therapy, medication management, or other interventions.

Support groups and online forums can also provide a sense of community and understanding for those living with these conditions. It's essential to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Strategies for Managing Sensory Processing Difficulties Associated with Both Conditions

Sensory processing difficulties are common in both Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and Autism. People living with these conditions may experience an over- or under-sensitivity to sensory stimuli, such as sound, touch, or light. This can cause discomfort and distress and affect daily activities.

Here are some strategies that may help manage sensory processing difficulties associated with EDS and Autism:

Sensory Diet

A sensory diet is a personalized plan of activities designed to meet an individual's sensory needs. These activities can include movement, touch, sound, and other sensory experiences that provide input to the nervous system. A healthcare professional or occupational therapist can help develop a sensory diet tailored to an individual's specific needs.

Sensory-Friendly Environments

Creating a sensory-friendly environment can also help manage sensory processing difficulties. This can include reducing noise levels, using soft lighting, and providing comfortable seating options. For people with EDS, having ergonomic furniture that supports their joints can also be beneficial.

Deep Pressure Therapy

Deep pressure therapy involves applying pressure to the body through weighted blankets, compression garments, or hugs. This can provide a calming effect on the nervous system and help reduce anxiety and stress.

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

For people who are sensitive to sound, noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs can be helpful in reducing auditory overload. This is especially important in busy environments such as malls or airports.

It's important to work with healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable about both EDS and Autism when developing strategies for managing sensory processing difficulties. They can provide personalized recommendations based on an individual's symptoms and needs.

By incorporating these strategies into daily life, individuals living with EDS and Autism can better manage their sensory processing difficulties and improve their overall quality of life.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Receiving a proper diagnosis and accessing appropriate treatment is crucial for individuals with both Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and Autism. This section will explore the diagnosis process for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism, the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, and the various therapies and support available for individuals with both conditions.

Diagnosing Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism

Diagnosing Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism can be complex due to the overlapping symptoms and challenges associated with both conditions. Medical professionals, such as geneticists and rheumatologists, play a key role in diagnosing Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, while developmental pediatricians and psychologists specialize in diagnosing Autism.

To diagnose Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, medical professionals may evaluate a combination of clinical symptoms, medical history, and genetic testing. Additionally, they may assess joint hypermobility, skin elasticity, and the presence of other associated features.

For Autism diagnosis, professionals rely on observations, standardized assessments, and interviews with parents or caregivers. They assess social communication skills, repetitive behaviors, and sensory sensitivities. It's important for parents to seek evaluations from professionals experienced in diagnosing both conditions to ensure comprehensive care.

Multidisciplinary Approach to Treatment

Given the complex nature of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism, a multidisciplinary approach to treatment is essential. Collaborative efforts among healthcare professionals, therapists, educators, and support groups are crucial for providing comprehensive care.

A multidisciplinary team may include medical specialists, such as geneticists, rheumatologists, and neurologists, who can address the specific needs associated with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism. This approach allows for a comprehensive evaluation and the development of an individualized treatment plan.

Therapies and Support for Individuals with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism

Therapies and support systems are vital components of treatment for individuals with both Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism. Depending on the unique needs of the individual, various therapies may be recommended, including:

  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy focuses on improving muscle strength, joint stability, and overall mobility. It aims to alleviate pain and improve functional abilities.
  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy helps individuals develop skills necessary for daily living, such as self-care, fine motor skills, and sensory integration. It also provides strategies for managing sensory sensitivities.
  • Speech therapy: Speech therapy addresses communication challenges, both verbal and non-verbal, that individuals with Autism may experience. It can also help with social skills development.
  • Behavioral therapy: Behavioral therapy, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), is commonly used to support individuals with Autism. It focuses on improving social skills, reducing challenging behaviors, and enhancing overall quality of life.
  • Psychological counseling: Psychological counseling can help individuals and their families cope with the emotional and psychological aspects of living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism. It provides support, guidance, and strategies for managing stress and anxiety.

In addition to therapies, accessing support groups and communities can provide emotional support, shared experiences, and valuable resources for parents and individuals with both conditions. Advocacy and education are also important aspects for parents to ensure they have the necessary knowledge and tools to advocate for their child's needs.

By following a comprehensive treatment plan that includes a multidisciplinary approach and access to appropriate therapies and support, individuals with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism can lead fulfilling lives while managing the challenges associated with both conditions.

Managing Daily Life

Parents of individuals with both Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and autism face unique challenges in managing daily life. By implementing strategies and creating a supportive environment, parents can help their loved ones navigate their daily routines more effectively.

Creating a Supportive Environment

Creating a supportive environment is crucial for individuals with EDS and autism. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Physical Environment: Make the living space safe and accessible. Minimize hazards and create clear pathways to prevent injuries. Consider installing handrails or grab bars in areas where additional support is needed.
  2. Sensory Environment: Individuals with EDS and autism may have sensory sensitivities. Create a calm and soothing environment by minimizing bright lights, loud noises, and strong odors. Designate quiet spaces where they can retreat when feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Visual Supports: Visual supports, such as schedules, charts, and labels, can help individuals with EDS and autism understand and follow daily routines. Use visual aids to communicate expectations, tasks, and transitions.
  4. Consistency and Predictability: Establishing a consistent routine can provide a sense of security and stability. Stick to regular meal times, bedtimes, and daily activities as much as possible. Prepare individuals for any changes or disruptions in advance to minimize anxiety.

Strategies for Sensory Sensitivities

Sensory sensitivities are common in individuals with EDS and autism. Here are some strategies to address sensory sensitivities:

  1. Noise Reduction: Use noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to minimize auditory overload. Create quiet spaces where individuals can retreat when overwhelmed by noise.
  2. Visual Supports: Visual supports can help individuals with EDS and autism process and understand their surroundings better. Use visual schedules, social stories, or visual cues to assist with transitions or new activities.
  3. Sensory Diet: Implement a sensory diet that includes activities to regulate sensory input. This may involve incorporating activities like deep pressure or sensory breaks throughout the day to help individuals find their optimal level of sensory stimulation.
  4. Clothing and Textures: Individuals with EDS and autism may have sensitivities to certain clothing textures. Opt for soft, comfortable fabrics and loose-fitting clothing to minimize discomfort. Allow individuals to participate in selecting their clothing to promote autonomy.

Adaptive Techniques for Daily Activities

Daily activities can be challenging for individuals with EDS and autism. Here are some adaptive techniques to facilitate daily routines:

Daily Activity Adaptive Techniques
Personal Hygiene Use adaptive tools such as toothbrush holders, long-handled brushes, or specialized grips for toothbrushes and utensils. Incorporate visual supports to guide individuals through step-by-step routines.
Dressing Choose clothing with adaptive features like Velcro closures or elastic waistbands. Teach individuals techniques for dressing independently, such as using dressing aids or breaking down tasks into smaller steps.
Mealtime Utilize adaptive utensils or specialized tableware to improve grip and ease of use. Consider food textures and provide alternatives if certain textures are challenging. Create a calm and structured mealtime environment.
Mobility and Physical Activities Provide assistive devices, such as canes or wheelchairs, if needed. Modify physical activities to accommodate individual abilities and limitations. Encourage low-impact exercises to maintain strength and flexibility.

By implementing these strategies and techniques, parents can help individuals with both EDS and autism navigate their daily lives more effectively. It is important to remember that each individual is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Flexibility and open communication are key in supporting their specific needs and promoting their overall well-being.

Resources and Support

Parents of individuals with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and Autism often require additional resources and support to navigate the challenges associated with these conditions. Finding professional help, connecting with support groups and communities, and advocating for their child's needs are essential aspects of managing the journey.

Finding Professional Help

Seeking professional help is an important step in understanding and managing the complexities of EDS and Autism. Medical professionals, such as geneticists, rheumatologists, and neurologists, can assist in diagnosing and providing specialized care for both conditions. It's crucial to find healthcare providers with experience in treating individuals with EDS and Autism.

Support Groups and Communities

Connecting with support groups and communities can provide parents with a sense of belonging and understanding. These groups offer a platform for sharing experiences, exchanging information, and finding emotional support. Online forums, social media groups, and local support groups dedicated to EDS and Autism can be valuable resources for parents.

Advocacy and Education for Parents

As a parent of a child with EDS and Autism, advocating for your child's needs is crucial. Educating yourself about the conditions, the challenges they present, and available resources can empower you to become an effective advocate. Organizations focused on EDS and Autism provide valuable educational materials and resources to help parents navigate the complexities of these conditions.

Remember, you are not alone on this journey. Connecting with others who understand the unique challenges of EDS and Autism can provide comfort and valuable insights. By seeking professional help, joining support groups, and educating yourself about the conditions, you can better support your child and promote their overall well-being.


Can EDS cause Autism?

It's important to note that EDS does not directly cause Autism. However, there may be a shared genetic mechanism between the two conditions that increases the likelihood of having both.

What are the symptoms of EDS and Autism?

The symptoms of EDS vary depending on the type, but may include hypermobility, joint pain, and easily bruised or stretched skin. The symptoms of Autism also vary but may include difficulty with communication and social interaction, as well as repetitive behaviors or interests.

How is EDS and Autism diagnosed?

EDS is typically diagnosed through a physical exam and genetic testing. Diagnosis of Autism involves observing behavior patterns and developmental milestones. In some cases, genetic testing may be done to determine if there are any underlying genetic causes.

Is there a cure for EDS or Autism?

There is currently no cure for either condition. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms and improving quality of life.

Can treatment for one condition help with the other?

While there is no direct treatment for both conditions simultaneously, managing symptoms of one condition can lead to an improvement in overall health. It's important to work with healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable about both conditions to create a personalized treatment plan.


Living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism can be challenging, but with the right care and support, it's possible to manage symptoms and live a fulfilling life. By understanding the link between these two conditions and seeking personalized care, you can take control of your health and well-being.