University of Southern California
University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Food Selectivity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Dr. Sharon Cermak and a team of experts explore food selectivity in children with autism spectrum disorders in recently published articles from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and The Journal of Pediatrics.

“Food Selectivity and Sensory Sensitivity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders”
Sharon A. Cermak, EdD; Carol Curtin, MSW; Linda G. Bandini, PhD, RD
Journal of the American Dietetic Association (2010),110, pp.238-246

Abstract: Autism spectrum disorders comprise a complex set of related developmental disorders that are characterized by impairments in communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors. Impairments in sensory processing are also extremely common. The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders is increasing and is currently estimated to affect 1 in 150 children. Autism spectrum disorders are considered to be a major health and educational problem, affecting many areas of daily living, including eating. Children with autism spectrum disorders are often described as picky or selective eaters. This article provides a comprehensive narrative review of the empirical literature over the last 25 years on food selectivity and nutritional adequacy in children with autism spectrum disorders. The possible contributions of sensory factors, such as sensory sensitivity, to food selectivity are discussed. The need for an interdisciplinary approach to managing atypical eating patterns in children with autism spectrum disorders is highlighted.

“Food Selectivity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Typically Developing Children”
Linda G. Bandini, PhD, RD; Sarah E. Anderson, PhD; Carol Curtin, MSW; Sharon Cermak, EdD, OTR/L; E. Whitney Evans, MS, RD; Renee Scampini, MS, RD; Melissa Maslin, MEd; Aviva Must, PhD
The Journal of Pediatrics (2010), In Press.

Objectives: To define food selectivity and compare indices of food selectivity among children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and typically developing children, and to assess the impact of food selectivity on nutrient adequacy.

Study design: Food selectivity was operationalized to include food refusal, limited food repertoire, and high-frequency single food intake using a modified food frequency questionnaire and a 3-day food record. Food selectivity was compared between 53 children with ASDs and 58 typically developing children age 3-11 years. Nutrient adequacy was assessed relative to the dietary reference intakes.

Results: The children with ASDs exhibited more food refusal than typically developing children (41.7% of foods offered vs. 18.9% of foods offered; P <.0001). They also had a more limited food repertoire (19.0 foods vs. 22.5 foods; P <.001). Only 4 children with ASDs and 1 typically developing child demonstrated high-frequency single food intake. Children with a more limited food repertoire had inadequate intake of a greater number of nutrients.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that food selectivity is more common in children with ASDs than in typically developing children, and that a limited food repertoire may be associated with nutrient inadequacies.