Unusual Eating Patterns Are Being Linked To Autism Diagnoses In Children

A new study conducted by researchers from Penn State University found that atypical eating patterns in young children are linked to autism diagnoses in kids. 

The research was led by Professor of Psychiatry, Susan Mayes, and she and her team found that unusual eating habits were present in about 70% of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to the study, that percentage makes picky eating among children on the spectrum about 15 times more common in those with ASD as with those who are neurotypical. 

In the study, researchers surveyed about 2,102 children between the ages of one and 18 to see how they measured up to the original idea of the study. Of the children sampled, 1,462 had ASD, 327 of the children had other disorders, and finally, 313 of the children were neurotypical. 

Some of the unusual behaviors noticed in children are very limited food preferences, hypersensitivity to food textures or temperatures, and pocketing food without swallowing. These signs, along with other autism indicators, all point to autism in children. If a child’s doctor notices those symptoms early, due to their picky eating and other symptoms, a doctor can help that child seek the therapeutic interventions they require. 


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Some of the early intervention that is used to help these children cope with their daily lives are applied behavior analysis (ABA), occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy, just to name a few. Children who are on the spectrum, before they are diagnosed, usually stick to eating a narrow diet that typically involves a lot of grains like pasta and bread — these children also have a diet heavy in processed foods like chicken nuggets. 

Children with ASD dislike change and it’s usually difficult to transition to trying different foods most of the time sticking to a specific brand, shape, or color. This new discovery is something physicians have always predicted but now, they know that there is a real link between picky eating and autism — as well as other disorders like ADHD, language disorders, and a variety of learning disabilities.

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