Freeman Medical Focus: Autism Diet Concerns

JOPLIN, Mo. - "Feeding issues are very common with kids with autism. It's estimated that children with autism are five times more likely to have a feeding disorder," says Freeman Licensed Dietitian Karen Donelson.

The problem can even be as basic as just getting the child to sit down at the table.

"The most common issues we've seen in our clinic is what we call food selectivity, meaning that the kiddos are eliminating entire food groups in their diet, mostly fruits and vegetables. The foods that they tend to gravitate toward are the snack-type foods or the foods that are high in fat and sodium like french fries and chicken nuggets," Donelson says.

An autistic child's food problems can center around sensory issues.

"Where there's some property of the food that is really aversive to them. There's some where because of behaviors related to autism, rigidity or sameness. They're just not open to taking foods that are not preferred, so it's often a variety of issues that's going on," Donelson says.

If left uncorrected, there can be both short and long-term issues with such a limited diet.

"Especially when you're excluding fruits and vegetables you can have certain types of anemia. You can have poor bone growth, altered growth you can eventually have obesity, hypertension and diabetes," says Donelson.

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