Eating Behaviors of Children with Autism-Pilot Study

Nutrients. 2021 Aug 3;13(8):2687. doi: 10.3390/nu13082687.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the most recognized neuropsychiatric disorder of childhood. Comorbid conditions (such as feeding disorders) are more common among people with autism than among the general population. The most frequent somatic disorders in autistic children include the gastrointestinal disorders observed in 46-91% of patients. The purpose of this study was the evaluation of the nutrition of children with autism, with particular emphasis placed on feeding in the first year of life, in comparison to the group of healthy peers. Participants included 75 Caucasian children (41 children diagnosed with pure autism, and the control group consisting of 34 children without autistic traits). The analysis was performed based on a questionnaire of own design with the first part devoted to the eating practices of the early infancy. Results: Autistic children, as compared to the healthy peers, presented a shortened time of breastfeeding (the children fell asleep at the breast) (p = 0.04), a delayed introduction of dairy products (p = 0.001), the need of more trials to introduce new foods (p = 0.006), a delayed introduction of foods with solid and lumpy structure (p = 0.004), a longer duration of bottle feeding (p = 0.005), delayed attempts to eating using own hands (p = 0.006) and needed a greater support of parents to divert their attention from food during eating (p = 0.05). Conclusions: 1. The dietary problems are more common among children with the autism spectrum disorder than among the population of healthy children, during the first year of life from the time of introducing the complementary foods. 2. The autistic children experience difficulties with eating and require their parents' additional involvement significantly more often than their healthy peers.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; breastfeeding; complementary food; screen time.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / complications
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Breast Feeding / psychology
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Child, Preschool
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Nutritional Status
  • Pilot Projects
  • White People