Professor of psychiatry Susan Mayes has conducted research, discovering that unusual eating patterns can be an indicator of autism in children. According to Science Daily, Mayes' study found that 70% of kids with autism have strange eating preferences. More often than not, children with the condition may only like certain foods and dislike certain textures. They could even have an aversion to hot or cold foods, or anything that goes against their "normal". In some cases, children put foods in their pockets, instead of eating them.
Mayes found that children as young as 1 have these strange eating habits, before later being diagnosed with autism. Noticing these patterns at an early age could help medical professionals recognize the disorder sooner. If parents notice first, then they can contact their doctor and ask for an autism screening. Mayes hopes that these steps will be beneficial by allowing kids to have access to behavior therapy from a much younger stage.
The earlier kids start to undergo this therapy, the more they will get from it in the long-run. Experts say that there is a fine line between normal eating development and an indication of special needs. If a child begins to introduce new foods slowly over time, then there is most likely nothing to worry about. However, kids with ASD or other conditions will continue to severely limit their diet as they mature unless they receive treatment.
Keith Williams, director of the Feeding Program at Penn State Children's Hospital, has seen kids that only eat bacon and only drink iced tea. With his help, they're able to expand their comfort zone and establish a healthier diet. Over the course of his career, he has worked on all manner of cases, including kids who still eat baby food or who only drink from a bottle. According to Mayes, many autistic children gravitate toward grain products like pasta, bread, and chicken nuggets. Colors and shapes can also play an important part in a child's preference.
The authors hope that their research, which spanned over 2,000 children, can provide beneficial information for ASD kids and their families moving forward.