Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Autism and Difficulties with Eating


Autism is a relatively common developmental disorder. It is estimated to occur in 1 in every 1,000 births and occurs four times as frequently in boys as girls. Autism is typically diagnosed between the ages of 1 to 4 years and is characterized by speech and communication delays and difficulties; troubles with social behavior including failure to develop typical peer interactions and relationships; repetitive stereotypical behaviors and movement patterns; preoccupation with specific objects and intense interest in specific things, e.g., trains; non-typical interactions with toys, among other symptoms. Children with autism have sensory integration problems including being bothered by things that are rough on their skin (socks, shirts, underwear), loud noises, bright lights, smells, etc., and they like to have a routine and are distressed should a routine change. More information about autism can be found at many sites on the internet. NIH PubMed Health provides a thorough description. Also, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke have an Autism Fact Sheet that includes a list of organizations that can provide more information.

It is not unusual for children who have a diagnosis of being on the autism spectrum to be described as picky or fussy eaters. In many cases the child is not just being a picky eater, as is common with many children as they evolve from being fed to becoming independent at mealtimes, they are exhibiting patterns of selective eating. (Selective eating is the clinical term for the little studied phenomenon of eating a highly limited range of foods, and being unwilling to try new foods.) Most children will outgrow this trait and become typical eaters; however, children with autism may carry their selective eating patterns into adulthood. Read the entire article...

 ... For many children the interface with another person at mealtimes can compound the behavioral difficulties that can be associated with eating. For those who are unable or unwilling to self-feed, the removal of the feeding partner can lessen the behavioral difficulties. The Mealtime Partner Dining System can provide a way for a child to self-feed, select the foods that they wish to, or are willing to eat and not have to deal with another person. Additionally, many children with autism enjoy technology and using adaptive switches and because of this trait, the Mealtime Partner Dining System can provide a positive experience relating to eating. For more information about the Mealtime Partner, click here.

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