Credentials Display

Michelle A. Suarez, Ph.D, OTRL; Nickola W. Nelson, Ph.D., CCC-SLP; Amy B. Curtis, Ph.D.


PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship among physiological factors, age, sensory over-responsivity (SOR) and food selectivity in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

METHODS: One hundred forty-one parents of children with ASD were recruited through a national autism organization, Autism Speaks, to fill out a survey regarding their child’s mealtime behavior. Survey contained items to measure the severity of food selectivity behavior, the presence of physiological factors (i.e., reflux, constipation, food allergies and the need for a specialized diet) and sensory over-responsivity (SOR). Results were analyzed using Chi Square, ANOVA and logistic regression.

RESULTS: No relationship between physiological factors and level of food selectivity was found. Older children in the 3-9 year old range did not have more foods in their diet repertoire than younger children. Finally, children with fewer than 10 and those with 11-20 foods in their diet (i.e., severe food selectivity and moderate food selectivity respectively) were found to have significantly higher scores on a measure of SOR when compared to children with 21+ foods (typical selectivity).

CONCLUSIONS: When addressing food selectivity in children with ASD, consideration of the possibility that the child may not outgrow restricted diets is warranted. Also, treatment for food selectivity may be more effective if SOR is included in protocol.