Autism’s Picky Eaters
An assessment of food acceptance in children with autism or pervasive
developmental disorder-not otherwise specified.
Ahearn WH, Castine T, Nault K, Green G.
The New England Center for Children, Southboro, MA 01772-2108, USA.
Some children with autism and pervasive developmental disorder-not
otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) have been reported to have atypical feeding
behavior, such as sensitivity to food texture and selective preferences for
No systematic studies of feeding behavior in this population have been
published. Munk and Repp (1994) developed methods for assessing feeding
problems in individuals with cognitive and physical disabilities that allow
categorization of individual feeding patterns based on responses to repeated
presentations of food. In this study, we systematically replicated the Munk
and Repp procedures with children with autism and PDD-NOS.
Thirty children, ages 3 to 14 years, were exposed to 12 food items across 6 sessions.
Food acceptance, food expulsion, and disruptive behavior were recorded
on a trial-by-trial basis. Approximately half of the participants exhibited
patterns of food acceptance, indicating selectivity by food category or food
texture. Others consistently accepted or rejected items across food
Whether these patterns of food acceptance are atypical remains to be
determined by comparison with the feeding patterns of typically developing
children and other children with developmental delays.