person holding a green fidget spinner

Yes, Hypermobility & Autism Are Related – Here’s How I Know

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means we may earn a commission if you make a purchase through these links. This is at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products and services we truly believe in. Your support helps us keep the site running! Thank you.

Hypermobility and autism are two conditions that are increasingly been diagnosed among the same individuals. But do you know why these two conditions are related and how?

Read on, to find out all you need to know.

Understanding autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder. It affects many parts of a person, including:

  • Social Communication and interaction
  • Behavior
  • Sensory issues
  • Learning and attention
  • Emotional regulation
  • Self-care

Like hypermobility, autism is a spectrum. This means no two people are affected by the autism in the same way.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1 in 100 children have ASD. However, in recent years there has been an increase of the number of adults being given an ASD diagnosis too.

Getting to grips with hypermobility

Hypermobility is where a person’s joints are excessively flexible. They bend beyond what’s considered a ‘normal’ range.

The NHS says that up to 1 in 5 people have hypermobile joints. But, for most, this will be a harmless type of hypermobility that causes no issues. Symptomatic hypermobility is where conditions such as hypermobility spectrum disorder (HSD) and hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS) come into play.

Similarly, up to 15% of children are hypermobile. In most cases, children grow out of hypermobility. But this isn’t always the case. Therefore, it’s children and adults with symptomatic hypermobility that may also have autism.

Yes, there’s a link between hypermobility & autism

More often than not, people with hypermobility have autism or another neurodivergent condition, such as ADHD.

The number of people with both hypermobility and a neurodivergent condition varies between sources. Reframing Autism estimates that 80% of people with autism are hypermobile. However, the Ehlers-Danlos Society says that it’s around the 50% mark.

In comparison, just 20% of the general population are more hypermobile than average.

Both of my children have hypermobility spectrum disorder, or rather the child version of HSD. They also both have autism.

So, what’s the connection between hypermobility & autism

No-one has determined for definite why there’s a connection between hypermobility and autism. But some theories include:

  • Shared genetic factors: There is some evidence that certain genes may be associated with both hypermobility and autism. For example, a study published in the journal Neurology found that people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome were more likely to have autism than the general population. This suggests that there may be a shared genetic basis for the two conditions.


  • Common developmental pathways: It is also possible that hypermobility and autism share common developmental pathways. For example, both conditions are thought to involve alterations in the structure and function of the cerebellum, a part of the brain that plays a role in motor control, balance, and coordination. It is possible that these alterations could also affect other aspects of development, such as social and communication skills.


  • Environmental factors: Environmental factors may also play a role in the link between hypermobility and autism. For example, some studies have suggested that prenatal exposure to certain chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA), may increase the risk of both hypermobility and autism.

Similarities between autism and hypermobility

On the surface, autism and hypermobility are two very different conditions and it’s hard to see how they’ve both linked. But when you delve a little deeper, it’s possible to see a connection.

Genes

To date, there’s no one gene that has been found to be responsible for both hypermobility and autism. According to Medicine Plus, some of the genes linked to autism are: ARID1B, ASH1L, CHD2, CHD8, DYRK1A, POGZ, SHANK3, and SYNGAP1.

But research into the gene or genes connected to hypermobility is sparse and is very much a work-in-progress. Although recent research has found that the gene MIA3 may be behind some types of hypermobility. This does, therefore, support the theory that genetics are involved.

Pain

Another link to consider is pain.

Hypermobility often causes chronic pain. Meanwhile, people with autism typically have higher levels of pain than people without the ASD. Another study highlighted how people who are neurodiverse experience greater pain and this may be because of the barriers they face in accessing healthcare.

This is similar to the healthcare barriers and delays that people with hypermobility experience. After all, on average, it takes 10 years to diagnose hypermobility.

While there’s evidence that having hypermobility increases the likelihood of having autism, and vice versa, there’s no certainty that both conditions will be diagnosed. I, for example, only have HSD and am not neurodivergent, as far as I’m aware.

Author

  • Amy

    Amy lives with hypermobility spectrum disorder (HSD). She spent years not knowing what was wrong with her body, before eventually being diagnosed in her 30s. She has two young children - both of whom are hypermobile.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *