Children with Autism and Food Selectivity!!!

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges with symptoms typically present before age 3 years. ASDs include autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder- not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS; also called atypical autism) and Asperger syndrome. Studies show that early identification and intervention can improve long term outcomes. CDC estimates that an average of 1 in 110 children in the U.S have an ASD and is four times more likely to happen in boys than in girls.

A person with an ASD might:

• Not respond to their name by 12 months
• Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
• Not play “pretend” games (pretend to “feed” a doll) by 18 months
• Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
• Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings.
• Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
• Give unrelated answers to questions
• Get upset by minor changes
• Have obsessive interests
• Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
• Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel

The objective of a current study was to examine food selectivity in children with autism spectrum disorders. Food selectivity was defined as food refusal, limited food repertoire and high frequency single food intake. Researchers used a modified food frequency questionnaire and a three day food record. A total of 111 children were included in the study, which included 53 children with an ASD and 58 typically developing children between the ages of 3 to 11 years. The results revealed that the children with an ASD exhibited more food refusal than typically developing children. They also found that the children with an ASD had a more limited food repertoire. It was noted that only four children with ASDs and 1 typically developing child demonstrated high frequency single food intake. Based on these findings the researchers were able to determine that food selectivity is more common in children with ASDs and that a limited food repertoire may be associated with nutrient deficiencies.1

1 Bandini LG, Anderson SE, Curtin C, et al. Food Selectivity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Typically Developing Children. J Pediatr. Mar2010.