The Diet Challenges Of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Children with ASD often have obsessive and narrow interests and repetitive behaviors. This affects food choices and eating habits leading to health concerns.
Some children are sensitive to the texture, color, smell and taste of food. This affects eating habits because entire food groups can be avoided.

Common dislikes include slippery foods, vegetables and fruits. Kids with ASD may not eat enough and it is difficult for them to eat a meal from beginning to end. The limited food choices may cause constipation. The solution is high fiber, a lot of fluids and consistent physical activity. Some of the medications used for ASD such as Ritalin decrease the appetite and affect the way minerals and vitamins are absorbed. 

Nutritious, balanced meals are important for children under the spectrum. This helps them process information, manage emotions and learn. These children may not be getting the required nutrition such as protein and calcium. Children with ASD are usually picky eaters and it is nearly impossible to get them to try new foods. The child may avoid specific foods or entire groups of food. A good approach is to take the child away from the kitchen. They can choose new foods at the supermarket. Research the food on the internet and help decide how it should be prepared. It is all right if the child will not eat the food. They are becoming familiar with different foods in a positive and low pressure way that may eventually increase their flexibility regarding eating. 

Stress can be reduced by serving meals at the same time each day. There are concessions that can be made to help the child. If bright lights bother the child, dine by candlelight. Give the child the opportunity to choose a favorite food for every meal or allow them to decide where they want to sit at the table. 

Many people believe meals free of casein and gluten can improve ASD symptoms. Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye and wheat. Casein is also a protein but found in milk. The belief is children with autism have a leaky intestine or gut. This enables some of the casein and gluten to get into the bloodstream. This affects the central nervous system and the brain. The belief is this can magnify the symptoms of ASD. Certain studies have indicated these diets can help autistic children. There is not absolute proof and more research is necessary. It is important to realize careful planning is necessary because restrictive diets may not meet the nutritional needs of the child. It is a good idea to talk to a registered dietitian nutritionist prior to drastically changing the diet of the child. This will help prevent potential nutrition deficits and side effects from a casein or gluten free diet. 

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