Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have restrictive and ritualistic behaviors that affect their eating habits. Some of them limit what they eat, in some instances so severely that it results in nutritional deficiencies that lead to weight loss, malnutrition and inadequate growth. Reasons for eating problems may range from a need for food to look a certain way, to avoid certain textures of foods. For example, some children with autism have severe oral sensitivity and may not like the texture or consistency of certain foods.
Many children's eating problems are due to their sensory processing problems that accompany their autism. Trenton has modulation sensory problems so EVERYTHING comes and goes with him. I have noticed that when his sense of smell is very hyper, he gags at others people food. He has gagged at Andrew and I's food several times.
For the past 2 months he has ate pizza around the clock......before that it was salad....before that it was chicken nuggets for like 4 months and they had to be fresh from McDonalds....before that it was spaghetti.....before that it was pork roast.
Whatever his body allowed him to eat he ate it for breakfast, lunch, and supper. I had to make sure that I had his food available at all times or he refused to eat......yes I said that... HE WILL NOT EAT and NO HE WON'T GET SO HUNGRY THAT HE WILL GIVE IN AND EAT.
Sadly enough I have been told before to give Trenton food and he will eat it.....he won't starve they said. Yes in fact he will starve. Children with autism everyday end up in the hospital on feeding tubes because of their refusal to eat due to their disability. It is a very serious part of autism. In fact, when autism was first an official diagnosis, eating problems was part of the definition.
Below is an article from iancommunity.org on the seriousness of autism and eating problems.
Picky eating or feeding disorder?
Peter Girolami, Ph.D., clinical director of Pediatric Feeding Disorders at Kennedy Krieger, said that typically-developing children may also have preferences, refuse some foods now and then, and throw an occasional tantrum, but in other instances, they try different foods. "Children with autism, however, take selective eating to another level," he said. "For example, a child may want this particular brand of French fry. If the parents don't give that to him, he may respond with a burst of tantrums."
Children with autism who have feeding problems fear new foods. "We often see that they develop inappropriate behaviors to avoid them—for example, they don't want to use a certain utensil or sit at the table. And the parents naturally let the kids have their way because they just want to get them to eat," she said.
Isaiah Stevens, a non-verbal child with autism, struggled with a severely restrictive diet until he was five. His mother, Audrey Stevens, said he preferred crunchy, yellow foods like goldfish crackers, waffles and toast. However, Isaiah was allergic to gluten (a protein found in wheat) and casein (a milk protein). Since the foods he preferred contained these allergens, Isaiah often had wheezing, asthma and constipation when he ate them.
"I eventually found an organic waffle recipe that was basically rice flour, honey and almond oil. I would make 30 of these a day and Isaiah would eat this throughout the day," Audrey Stevens explained. "He would also eat crunchy, salty bacon and drink almond milk, but nothing else besides these foods."
Children with autism who are picky eaters limit themselves to five foods or fewer in some extreme cases. "Typical children get fussy but they never restrict themselves to so few foods," she explained.
Like Isaiah, some children with autism may be selective with the color of the food, eating only yellow or white foods such as rice, potatoes and pasta. Others may prefer a particular texture—some may like smooth foods while others may eat only crunchy foods3.
"A lot of children with autism tend to prefer foods that are high in carbs, high in calories and low in fiber. This interferes with their gut function and leads to constipation," Dr. Levey said.
Dr. Girolami and Dr. Olive said that children with autism tend to go days without eating when they do not get the foods that they want.
Audrey Stevens said several health care professionals initially suggested not feeding Isaiah the foods he ate, and change his diet to include whole foods, with different drinks like coconut water or rice milk, for three days.
"They told me, 'He will starve, but after three days, he'll have no choice but to eat,'" she said. "Well, that just landed him in the ER [Emergency Room] dehydrated and so pale. His mouth was sticky. Even then, when I offered him some coconut milk in the hospital, he would move his head and have a meltdown." Audrey Stevens said after that plan to improve Isaiah's feeding habits failed, she and Isaiah's medical team felt that there was no other option but to put him in an intensive feeding clinic.
Below is a great article about the issue of food with kids on the spectrum.
As of right now, I am celebrating in this house! Trenton is eating a combination of chicken nuggets, salad, spaghetti, and crackers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHOOOHOOOO. I feel like I have won the lottery:)