Eating Problems and Patterns Among Toddlers and Young Boys with and without Autism Spectrum Disorders
Eating and feeding problems are common comorbidities among children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) yet the reasons for this are unclear, and relatively few studies have compared the eating problems seen in ASD to a typically developing control group.
To shed light on the eating patterns seen in ASD by assessing the differences in eating problems and patterns between children with ASD and typically developing children and to explore the influence of age on eating problems and patterns among typical children and children with ASD.
Differences in eating problems and patterns between children with ASD and typically developing children were assessed, as well as differences between eating problems and patterns between toddlers (aged 2-3 years) and young children (aged 3-7) with ASD. A total of 105 children with ASD and 95 typically developing children were included in the study. Of the 91 toddlers, 65 had a diagnosis of ASD and of the 112 young children, 40 had a diagnosis of ASD.
Children with ASD displayed significantly more eating problems in every domain assessed than children with typical development. The overall effect of age was found only in ritualistic behavior during eating, which older children displayed more than younger children. In addition, typically developing children ate a significantly greater variety of all food groups than children with ASD, except drinks and snacks. An overall age effect was also found. Younger children ate a greater variety than older children in the majority of food groups, except for drinks, snacks and meats.
This study supports previous findings regarding the greater incidence of eating problems and patterns among children with ASD and provides new findings about the role of age in eating problems. More research is needed to shed light on underlying causes of eating problems and patterns in ASD.