A Comparison of Eating Behaviors Between Children with and Without Autism

Abstract

Although clinicians typically assume that feeding problems co-exist with a diagnosis of autism, no previous research has compared the eating behavior of children with autism to typically developing children. This study compared caregiver report of eating problems of children with and without autism on a standardized questionnaire. The questionnaire included items pertaining to food refusal and acceptance patterns as well as food presentation requirements. Caregivers were also asked to complete a food inventory that indicated the number of foods eaten within each food group for both the child and the family. Results indicated children with autism have significantly more feeding problems and eat a significantly narrower range of foods than children without autism.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

REFERENCES

  1. Ahearn, W. H., Castine, T., Nault, K., & Green, G (2001). An assessment of food acceptance or pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31 (5), 505–511.

    Google Scholar 

  2. American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of MentalDisorders (4th ed.) Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Archer, L. A., Rosenbaum, P. L., & Streiner, D. L (1991). The children's eating behavior inventory. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 16, 629–642.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Archer, L. A., & Szatmari, D. L (1991). Assessment and treatment of food aversion in a four year old boy: A multidimensional approach. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 35, 501–505.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Autism Society of America (1994). Definition of autism. The Advocate: Newsletter of the Autism Society of America, 26 (2), Silver Springs, MD: Author.

  6. Clark, J. H., Rhoden, D. K., & Turner, D (1993). Symptomatic vitamin A and D deficiencies in an eight-year-old with autism. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, 17 (3), 284–286.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Coffey, K., & Crawford, J (1971). Nutritional problems commonly encountered in the developmentally handicapped. In M. A. Smith (Ed.), Feeding the handicapped child. Memphis, TN: University of Tennessee Child Development Center.

    Google Scholar 

  8. DeMyer, M. K., Ward, S. D., & Lintzenich, J (1968). Comparison of macronutrients in the diets of psychotic and normal children. Archives of General Psychiatry, 18, 584–590.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Gilliam, J. E. (1995). Gilliam Autism Rating Scale: Examiner's Manual. Austin, Texas: Pro-Ed.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Jones, T. W. (1982). Treatment of behavior-related eating problems in retarded students: A review of the literature. In J. H. Hollis & C. E. Myers (Eds.), Life threatening behavior: analysis and intervention (pp. 3–26). Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Deficiency.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Kanner, L. (1943). Autistic disturbances of affective contact. Nervous Child, 2, 217–250.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Kinnel, H. G. (1983). Feeding difficulties in infantile autism. Nursing Times, 52–53.

  13. Lopreiato, J. O., & Wulfsberg, E. A (1992). A complex chromosome arrangement in a boy with autism. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 13 (4), 281–283.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Minshew, N. J., & Payton, J. B (1988). New perspectives in autism. Part 2: The differential diagnosis and neurobiology of autism. Current Problems in Pediatrics, 18, 619–694.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Nagai, Y. (1983). The characteristics and mechanism of food preference in infantile autism. Japanese Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 24, 260–278.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Palmer, S., & Horn, S (1978). Feeding problems in children. In S. Palmer & S. Ekvalt (Eds.), Pediatric nutrition in developmental disorders, (ch. 13, pp. 107–129). Springfield, IL: Charles S. Thomas.

  17. Perske, R., Clifton, A., McClean, B. M., & Stein, J. I (Eds.) (1977). Mealtimes for severely and profoundly mentally-handicapped persons: New concepts and attitudes. Baltimore, MD: University Park Press.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Raiten, D. J., & Massaro, T (1986). Perspectives on the nutritional ecology of autistic children. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 16 (2), 133–143. Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (2000) Release 10.0 [Computer software]. SPSS, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Stone, W., MacLean, W. E., & Hogan, K. L (1995). Autism and mental retardation. In A. C. Roberts (Ed.), Handbook of pediatric psychology (pp. 655–675) New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Teplin, S. (1999). Autism and related disorders. In M. Levine, W. Carey, & A. Crocker (Eds.), Developmental and behavioral pediatrics (pp. 589–605) Philadelphia: Saunders.

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kimberly A. Schreck.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Schreck, K.A., Williams, K. & Smith, A.F. A Comparison of Eating Behaviors Between Children with and Without Autism. J Autism Dev Disord 34, 433–438 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:JADD.0000037419.78531.86

Download citation

  • Autism
  • food refusal
  • food selectivity
  • pediatric feeding