It’s not uncommon for a small child to avoid his vegetables. Most children get past this stage, and understand the importance of a well-balanced diet. For autistic children, however, they may never get passed the picky eating stage. And, this puts them at great nutritional risk.
Dr. Linda Banchini (EK Shriver Center, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Boston University) got together with her colleagues to find out more. They collected data from the Children’s Activity And Meal Patterns Study (CHAMPS), which asked parents to keep a 3-day food diary and answer questions regarding their childrens eating habits. The study included data on 111 children, 53 of whom were autistic. All children in the study were between the ages of 3 and 11.
Evidence of picky eating habits was found amongst children with autism, and children without. Although, it was worse amongst the children with autism. Not only were the children with autism more picky, but their diets were less diversified. The food diaries revealed that the children with autism were posed to not meet the requirements for vitamins A, C, D, minerals, zinc, and calcium.
So why is this? One study suggests that the appearance of a plate of food could change the desire to eat for a child with autism. For example, this change could occur if the food is mixed together or touching. Another study suggests that children might have a particular tradition or routine associated with when they eat.
Parents who are troubled about their child’s eating habits should try keeping food diaries, or seek help from a professional. If you are wondering if your child has autism, know that this may be a sign of autism.
If you are in the New York Tri-state area, Shema Kolainu- Hear Our Voices, School and Center for Children with Autism offer free screenings for children under three years of age. Visit them online www.hearourvoices.com or call them directly at 718-686-9600.