A study done by researchers at Marcus Autism Center and Emory University School of Medicine showed that children with autism are at risk for feeding problems and nutritional deficits. The analysis of feeding behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders showed that the children are five times more likely to have a feeding issue, including extreme tantrums during meals, severe food selectivity, and ritualistic behaviors at mealtime.
The results are reported in the Feb. 1, online early edition of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
"The results of this study have broad implications for children with autism," says William Sharp, a behavioral pediatric psychologist in the Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program at Marcus Autism Center and assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine. "It not only highlights the importance of assessing mealtime concerns as part of routine health care screenings, but also suggests the need for greater focus on diet and nutrition in the autism community.”
Feeding problems can have long term impacts on a child’s medical and developmental outcomes. For example, a child could develop malnutrition, growth retardation, social difficulties, and poor performance in academics. Evidence suggests that feeding problems could place the population at risk for long term complications, such as poor bone growth, obesity and cardiovascular disease as they age and enter adulthood.
A recommendation from the study is to screen for feeding concerns and nutritional deficits for children on the autism spectrum. They also suggest healthcare providers review the potential consequences of pursuing an elimination diet with consideration of the child’s unique feeding and nutritional presentation.
"This study is the first of its kind to quantify the impact of feeding disorders in the autism population," says Sharp. "We hope that our work helps guide clinical practice, as well as provides a roadmap for future research in this area."