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Psychological, Health, and Demographic Correlates of Atypical Eating Behaviors in Children with Autism

  • Hana Zickgraf
  • Susan D. MayesEmail author
ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Abstract

Potential psychological, health, and demographic correlates of atypical eating behaviors in children with autism were analyzed in the largest sample with the broadest range of independent variables to date. Eating behaviors were assessed in 1112 children with autism 1–17 years of age using the Checklist for Autism Spectrum Disorder (CASD), a standardized parent interview conducted by licensed psychologists. Independent variables were demographics (age, IQ, sex, race, and parent occupation), 29 CASD autism symptom scores (e.g., distress with change and sensory hypersensitivity), psychotropic medication use, and maternal ratings on the Pediatric Behavior Scale assessing psychopathology (e.g., behavior problems, ADHD, anxiety, and depression), appetite, weight, gastrointestinal problems, and other health problems. Atypical eating behaviors were found in 70.5% of children and were positively related to only four variables: age (most common at ages 1–3), increasing autism severity (total number of autism symptoms present), poor appetite, and constipation. Given the high prevalence of atypical eating behaviors in autism and their presence at a very young age, primary care and early intervention providers should be alert to these problems and if present, consider the possibility of autism and a referral for a diagnostic evaluation so that children with autism can access behavioral intervention shown to be effective in treating autism in toddlers and young preschoolers, as well as in treating the atypical eating behaviors.

Keywords

Atypical eating behaviors Limited food preferences Autism 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was waived by the Institutional Review Board because analyses were conducted retrospectively on existing clinical data.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry H073Penn State College of MedicineHersheyUSA

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