Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Clinic Notes: Autism and Feeding Problems

A recent large-scale study published online in Pediatrics reports that children with autism are "slow feeders" at 6 months and at 15 months are finicky eaters compared to normally developing children. However, these feeding problems do not appear to affect growth or energy levels. The authors suggest that feeding problems may be early diagnostic signs of autism so clinicians should ask about feeding problems. I think this is a good idea, but maybe the finicky eating has nothing to do with food. In my clinic I often note that children with autism are finicky eaters at all ages. But I think this could be because children with autism are just as likely to reject food on the basis of texture as taste and I also know that children with autism do not like change and characteristically follow rigid routines. I've seen cases where a rigid diet would be followed for years and I don't think it had anything to do with food, but simply routine. I know of one adult with autism who had eaten the same exact lunch, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, for 20 years and on the few occasions when some other food was given to him he had tantrums. He would eat the other foods that were offered to him just not at lunch.

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