Feeding issues are common in children with autism. Research indicates that 69% of children with autism are resistant to eating novel foods and another 46% have rituals surrounding their eating habits (William, P.G., Dalrymple, N. & Neal, J. (2000). Eating Habits of Children with Autism. Pediatric Nursing, 26 (3), 259-264). Not only can this pose a health concern for our children, it can create significant challenges for parents. Further complicating the issue is the need to differentially diagnose the feeding problem as medical or behavioral. Assuming medical issues are ruled out, ACES is able to use the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to help parents build age appropriate eating skills for their children.
Possible Indicators of Feeding Challenges
Limited Food Selection
- Less than 20 foods
- Avoids certain food groups
Adverse Reactions to New Foods
- Cries, screams or yells
- Throws plate/food and may run away from table
- Vomits or gags
Feeding Skills Are Inconsistent with Child’s Age
- Example: the child is 6 years of age but is still drinking from a bottle
The Child May Have Food Jags:
- Insistence on eating the same food/same brand.
- Will only eat chicken nuggets from McDonalds
- Will only eat Oscar Meyer hot dogs
- Will eat a food in one environment but not in another.
- Will eat at school but not at home
- Food has to be prepared the same way
- Will only eat carrots steamed with butter and garlic salt
- Will only eat grapes that are peeled and green
Research Shows You're Not Alone
Schreck & Williams (2005) data obtained from parent report of 175 children with autism:
- 57% have limited food selection
- 72% have limited food groups
Williams, Dalrymple & Neal (2000) data obtained from parent reports of 100 children with autism:
- 69% have problems trying new foods
- 60% have problems eating new foods
What Do You Do If You Suspect Your Child Has Behavioral Feeding Challenges?
- Consult your Pediatrician to rule out an underlying medical condition.
- Get referrals for specialized assistance if appropriate.
- Schedule a consult with a company experienced in treating feeding challenges.
- If you already have a company you work with speak to your supervisor about your concerns.