Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Do Autistic Babies Have Trouble Eating

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Autism Signs By 3 Months

Eating Disorders and Autism
  • She doesn’t follow moving objects with her eyes: Babies at high risk for autism dont follow caregivers as they move in the visual field, says Dr. Frazier. They may be more intrigued by something like a blanket.
  • She doesn’t respond to loud noises.
  • She doesn’t grasp and hold objects.

  • She doesn’t pay attention to new faces

Parent Tip For Drooling

When you look at your child and he is drooling, take your finger and run it down your throat and say swallow to remind him to swallow.  After awhile, you do not need to say swallow you will only have to run your finger down your throat as a sign for him to remind them to swallow. This way it doesnt draw attention to him and embarrass him in public situations.

Drooling could be a sign of an oral motor problem -typically its a sign of weakness, typically not a sign of a motor planning disorder

There is an Drooling Remediation Kit from Talk Tools

And more information on drooling from  the Miami Childrens Brain Institute:

Sialorrhea is the medical term for drooling , and refers to the flow of saliva outside the mouth.

Drooling may be caused by:

  • excess production of saliva
  • inability to retain saliva within the mouth
  • problems with swallowing

Common causes

Isolated drooling in infants and toddlers is normal and is unlikely to be a sign of either disease or complications. It may become worse when the child is teething. Drooling in infants and young children may be exacerbated by upper respiratory infections and nasal allergies.

Drooling also is common in children with neurological disorders or developmental delay. In these children, the reason for excessive drooling seems to be related to:

  • lack of awareness of the saliva in the mouth
  • difficulty swallowing
  • weakness of the lips, tongue, or jaw

Home care


  • Speech therapy

Signs of Oral Motor Dysfunction

Feeding Issues Related To Autistic Behavior Patterns

Like many children, kids with autism would usually prefer chicken nuggets and pizza to salads and fruit. Unlike many children, however, kids with autism can get absolutely stuck on very few food choices and absolutely refuse to make even the slightest change. If required to eat a carrot stick, an autistic child may melt down like a nuclear power plant!

While it is possible that these extreme preferences are sensory , it’s also possible that your child has developed a routine that is extremely difficult to change. People with autism, in general, prefer sameness and function well with routines, but sometimes a strong need for sameness can get in the way of proper nutrition.

If you’re struggling with an autistic child’s need to eat the same things, in the same order, day in and day out, start by checking to see if there is a real nutritional problem. If your child eats a limited but complete diet it may, in fact, be the case that he’s not in nutritional trouble. If you’re worried, you might just supplement his diet with a multi-vitamin. Next, rule out and/or address sensory or physiological problems .

Assuming that your child’s diet is really poor, and you’ve already addressed any sensory or physical issues, you’ll need to address the behavior. There are several approaches you can take, and you can mix and match:

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Early Signs Of Autism In Babies

Learn about the signs and symptoms of autism in babies from 0 to 12 months.

Watching your baby grow is an unforgettable experience. But while every child develops at her own level, failing to reach certain milestones could raise red flags. Some parents recognize signs of autism spectrum disorder when their baby is around 6-12 months and maybe even earlier, says Thomas Frazier, PhD, a clinical psychologist, autism researcher, and chief science officer of Autism Speaks. Here are the early signs of autism in babies, and why prompt diagnosis is key to treating the condition.

Signs Of Constipation In Autism

12 Mealtime Tips For Autistic Children

Because many children with autism struggle with communication and interoception , your child may not be able to verbally communicate to you that they are having trouble pooping or that their abdomen hurts.  Consequently, parents often have to rely on behaviors and external clues to know if their child is suffering from constipation.

Below, you will find a list of common signs and symptoms that may indicate your child is constipated.

Troubled Sleep

A constipated child often wakes in the middle of the night because of discomfort and has difficulty getting back to sleep.

Aggression and Self-Injurious Behavior

Constipation is extremely painful.  And, if your child cant tell you that theyre in pain, their only option is to use their behavior as a form of communication.  This misery is often expressed through self-injurious and aggressive behaviors.  Tragically, many of our kids have been suffering from this pain for a very long time; therefore, they don’t know what its like to live without extreme gastrointestinal pain.

Loose Bowel Movements

Interestingly, loose stool can be a red flag for constipation.  If large masses of stool harden and collect in the colon or rectum, they can form a blockage.  When this occurs, soft or liquid stool squeezes around that blockage, resulting in frequent or involuntary loose bowel movements, which can be mistaken for diarrhea.

The Appearance of the Stool
Child is Not Growing
Stinky Poop
Bloated Belly

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It Won’t Happen Overnight And That’s Ok

Introduce new foods slowly. Your child may only look at it the first time, smell it the next, touch it the following time and then eventually try putting it in their mouth. It can take months to get there but it is important to be patient. Try to make it an enjoyable process for them as it will make it easier next time around.

Feeding Problems In Children With Autism

Children with autism spectrum disorder may have restrictive and ritualistic behaviors that affect their eating habits. Some of them limit what they eat, in some instances so severely that it results in nutritional deficiencies1 that lead to weight loss, malnutrition and inadequate growth, said Melissa Olive Ph.D., a psychologist who treats children with ASD with feeding disorders at her practice in New Haven, Connecticut.

Research differs on how prevalent picky eating is in children with autism, but says that children with autism are much more likely than typically-developing children to be selective with food1,2.

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About Feeding And Swallowing Disorders

Think about how you eat. You first have to get the food or drink to your mouth. You may use a fork, spoon, straw, or your hands. You have to open your mouth and take the food in. You close your lips to keep the food in your mouth. You then chew the food or move the liquid to get ready to swallow.

Children have to learn this process. They start by sucking and learn how to eat solid foods and drink from a cup. Children will have some trouble at first. Drinks may spill from their mouths. They may push food back out or gag on new foods. This is normal and should go away. A child with a feeding disorder will keep having trouble. Some children will eat only certain foods, or they may take a long time to eat. These children may also have a feeding disorder.

Some children also have swallowing problems, or dysphagia . Swallowing happens in three stages, or phases. A child can have a problem in one or more of these phases. They include:

What Is One Piece Of Advice Every Family Facing These Issues Needs To Hear

Tips for Picky Eating and Children with Autism

Feeding challenges in children with ASD are incredibly common, can be severe and are often overlooked by clinicians. It is important to listen to families and let them know they are not alone. Acknowledge their stress and how the feeding challenge restricts their normal family activities. It is also important to avoid power struggles or forcing the child to eat something they do not want, as this usually makes the situation worse. Instead, families should seek help and celebrate their childs flexibility and food variety with positive reinforcement.

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Whats The Outlook For Autistic Children

Autism is a spectrum of neurological differences that develop during childhood.

Although there is not a cure for autism, many in the autism community believe these neurological differences dont need to be cured. Theyre just a different way of communicating and interacting with the world.

Decades of research have shown that early intervention can have a powerful effect on health outcomes for autistic children. When therapies begin in early childhood, autistic children benefit from the incredible adaptability of their growing brain and nervous system.

Some signs of autism can appear during infancy, such as:

  • limited eye contact

What Early Interventions Can Prevent Feeding Challenges From Expanding To Larger Issues

Pediatricians should routinely assess children with ASD for feeding challenges. Special attention should be paid to children with medical conditions which might adversely affect the respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems, as these could lead to challenges in normal feeding development.

Additionally, research suggests providers need to look beyond anthropometric parameters to assess health status and incorporate nutritional assessment as part of routine medical care in children with ASD. Significant feeding issues, in these patients, often dont result in abnormalities on typical growth parameters. Thus, relying exclusively on anthropometric parameters may in fact mask underlying nutritional deficits and prevent referrals for treatment. When researchers have looked closer at the nutrient intake in children with ASD, theyve seen significant specific deficits, including lower intake of calcium and protein.

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What Causes Food Problems In Autistic People

Although it might not seem so, autistic people are often the ultimate foodies. This is because, when we sit down to eat, our minds dont just register the flavour and presentation but also every other sense and stimuli in our surroundings from the sounds we hear to the sights we see.

This is something which has always affected me and while, in recent years, my tolerance to sensory disturbances has improved, it used to be the case that a variety of senses would affect my meals; such as restaurants with electronic bathroom driers or even waitresses with too much makeup.

But while sensory problems are the most common reason for fussy eating on the spectrum, they arent the only one as many autistic people can struggle to eat something due to the connotations we have made with that particular food.

One example of this is a boy who would only eat pink foods. This arose after he had conditioned himself to believe that only pink food was healthy, due to the link he had made between wellness and the U.K.s favourite childrens medicine: Calpol .

This is not the end of the challenges autistic people have when it comes to eating, however, as there are also many other autistic quirk related factors which play a role in unhealthy diets: including those who are susceptible to pica and those with obsessive personalities, who may calorie count.

Feeding Issues Related To Sensory Challenges

Fussy eating: autistic children & teens

Your child won’t eat broccoli, apples, nuts, or breakfast cereals. Or he won’t touch yogurt, milk, applesauce, soup, or oatmeal. In both of these cases, there’s an obvious avoidance pattern: in the first case, the child is rejecting crunchy foods. In the second case, he won’t tolerate smooth or gooey foods.

People with autism can be very sensory defensive, meaning they are easily upset by certain sensory experiences. They may hate bright lights or loud noise. They may also avoid strong smells and certain tactile experiences. Certain foods have strong smells and tastes; others have specific textures that may be appealing or disgusting to individual children.

There are a few simple fixes for eating problems related to sensory challenges:

  • Once you detect a pattern , stop serving crunchy food. It’s that easy. Cook the broccoli till it’s mushy. Serve oatmeal instead of Rice Krispies. There’s always a perfectly acceptable nutritional alternative to foods of any given texture, smell, or taste.
  • If you’re determined that your child MUST eat certain types of food that he can’t easily tolerate, consider “hiding” them in other foods. Many parents put veggies into delicious quick breads and muffins, for example.
  • At the same time as you’re finding ways to accommodate your child’s needs, consider finding a sensory integration therapist who has experience with feeding issues. She may be able to help you and your child learn to eat a wider range of foods.

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Expand What Your Child Already Eats

Lets say that a childs perennial favorite is white spaghetti with no sauce. You can start stretching her food acceptance by offering, say, a different brand of white spaghetti, then trying brown rice or another type of spaghetti. Eventually, youre moving to spaghetti with a little butter, then a white sauce, etc. The idea is to offer a food that remains familiar looking while building tolerance to small and incremental changes. A change from spaghetti to penne pasta, for example, might be too much to handle simply because it looks too different.

With Such A Long Waitlist At The Seattle Childrens Autism Center Where Do You Recommend Pcps Send Their Patients

Providers can continue to refer to our program as we try to increase our access to care

The Autism Center also offers classes each month for parents on feeding issues. Once a provider has made a referral, parents can call the Autism Center at 987-8080 to schedule a class.

You may also view a video lecture

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Unusual Eating Behaviors May Be Early Sign Of Autism

While most picky eating is perfectly normal, some behaviors may be red flags for autism, says a new study. Here’s what you need to know.

Diagnosing autism as early as possible is important, so kids and families can start getting the help, treatment, and support they need. Now, new research suggests that unusual eating behaviors may be an early red flag in childreneven as young as one or two years old.

Researchers from Penn State University found that unusual eating behaviors were five times more common in kids with autism than in those with other disorders like ADHD and learning disabilitiesand 15 times more common than in “typical” kids. In the study of more than 2,000 children , about 70 percent of kids with autism had atypical eating behaviors, compared with just 13 percent of kids with other disorders and only about 5 percent of typical kids. According to the researchers, atypical eating can been seen as early as the first year of life, and kids with autism can have more limited diets by as young as 15 months.

Some of the unusual eating behaviors researchers saw in kids with autism included:

Hypersensitivity to food textures: Kids with autism tended to be more sensitive to foods with smooth and creamy textures , foods that need a lot of chewing , and food that have lumps .

Pica: In the study, pica was only seen in children with autism.

Rule Out Medical Problems

Getting Kids with Autism to Eat

Sometimes children may refuse foods because theyre struggling with another condition, such as food allergies or constipation. If your child has extreme food selectivity, it is important to seek advice from your pediatrician to rule out any other medical conditions. Your pediatrician can also help refer you to any other services your child may need, such as feeding therapy, a GI specialist, or a dietitian.

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Take Food Out Of Their Brand Boxes Or Containers

My alarm bells go off when I hear of children eating only a specific brand of a specific food. I know of several parents who spend inordinate amounts of time searching out particular brands because their children refuse anything else. I counsel my families to avoid this issue altogether by taking food out of boxes as soon as they unpack the groceries. Put food in clear containers. Rotate brands as much as possible so your child is less likely to get stuck on a highly specific taste, look and texture.

Overcoming Feeding Difficulties In Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Mealtimes are often challenging when your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder . Many children will struggle with picky eating, also called selective eating, from time to time, as they develop and learn new eating skills. However, it is very common for children with ASD to struggle with a more severe form of selective eating that seriously restricts the types and quantity of foods they will eat . This article will discuss different factors that contribute to selective eating in children with ASD and some strategies that may help expand food acceptance. Treatment for feeding problems in children with autism is based on the individual needs and abilities of each child, not all strategies will be successful for every child.

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What If My Child Has Autism

If your child has signs of autism, Dr. Frazier advises scheduling a visit to your pediatrician right away. Youll discuss developmental concerns, and the doctor will evaluate your baby for autism. We have evidence that suggests the quicker you can get a diagnosis, the earlier you can enroll in developmental and behavioral interventions, says Dr. Frazier.

A Q&a With Dr Danielle Dolezal

Is it normal that my toddler hardly seems to eat anything ...

Danielle Dolezal

There are few challenges that generate as much concern and frustration for parents as feeding issues. Unfortunately, for children with autism spectrum disorders , these problems are quite common. Clinical research suggests 46% to 89% of all children with ASD struggle with feeding problems.

While patients may benefit from a referral to the Pediatric Feeding Program at Seattle Childrens Autism Center, qualified specialists are not always immediately available. In the meantime, Dr. Danielle Dolezal, clinical supervisor of the Pediatric Feeding Program, offers the following advice to primary care providers who want to help waiting families.

Thank you to Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician at The Everett Clinic in Mill Creek, a member of Childrens medical staff, chief of digital innovation for Childrens and author of the Seattle Mama Doc blog, for submitting these questions.

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Have Set Times For Meals And Stick To Them

As Ive mentioned in previous advice posts, its so important to eat on a schedule. Space meals and snacks every two-and-a-half to three hours through the day. Eliminate snacks including milk and juice in between. The idea is to train your childs internal hunger signals to specific mealtimes. This helps your childs body expect food and accept food at designated times.

Six Reasons Children With Autism Have Eating Issues

Autism Spectrum Disorder describes a group of developmental disabilities that can cause difficulty with social skills, language and behavior.

Fast Facts

  • About 1 in 68 children has been diagnosed with ASD.
  • ASD is almost five times more common in boys than in girls.
  • Almost half of children with ASD have average to above average intellectual ability.

ASD and Nutrition

Up to 80% of children with ASD are selective eaters. Your child may eat fewer fruits and vegetables and have less variety in his diet, putting him at risk for developing nutrient deficiencies. Long-term poor nutritional habits may increase the risk of developing chronic disease in adulthood, including hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

Many factors influence the way your child with ASD experiences food. Knowing what to expect can help reduce frustration.

At least six common features of ASD are related to eating behavior:

1 Social Interaction

Children learn some feeding behaviors from watching others eat. This may not be a motivator for your child with ASD. He may not understand the cues that come from watching his parents or other children enjoy food or he may not be interested in paying attention to what others are doing.

2 Need for Consistency

3 Language and Communication

4 Motor Control

5 Sensory Perception

6 Gastrointestinal Disorders

Your Childs Multidisciplinary Team

Find more articles about children with autism:

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Do Children With Feeding Problems Need To See A Specialist What Should Families Do If One Is Not Available

It is important that feeding issues in children with ASD are addressed by a specialist. These problems dont resolve on their own over time and may get worse. The recommendation to let them get hungry and wait until they eat does not work and can result in serious harm. Providers should refrain from this recommendation and instead get the children and family to the right intervention specialist.

Behavioral interventions provided by an interdisciplinary team are currently the only empirically supported treatment for pediatric feeding disorders in children with ASD. Unfortunately, few of these interdisciplinary programs exist, which results in a huge barrier to accessing care. We have one such program at Childrens Autism Center, however families often encounter long wait times because there are limited providers trained in working with this complex population.

While families are waiting, providers should help parents find resources and put together their own care team, including:

Together, this team can craft a plan addressing why a child might be refusing to eat.

Infant Feeding Patterns Over Time

How to get a child with autism to eat

Fourteen mothers described their infants as successfully establishing breastfeeding, and 9 mothers breastfed beyond 6 months of age. However, mothers recalled nine infants as demonstrating a dysregulated feeding pattern of vigorous sucking that did not stop with satiation.

On average, mothers in this study recalled breastfeeding their infants for 8.87 months . Many mothers described no issue with breastfeeding their infant over time. One first-time mother said, It was good. That is all I can say. I had no problems, and he was swallowing, he was drinking, everything was fine. A second-time mother said, He never really had a bottle, because I was at home.

The mothers described 9 infants with a dysregulated feeding pattern during hospitalization and 12 infants after discharge:

Right after birth, within in the first hour, I think he was okay. But he seemed like, I guess those first two days, he seemed hungry all the time. Like I was like a human, you know, I guess it took forever, so I just felt like I was just sitting there, and I couldnt do anything else. I couldnt go to the bathroom, I couldnt eat and if, you know, you unhooked him then, you know, he would just scream and cry.

A second-time mother recalled,

Ten mothers recalled changing how they fed their infant within 1 week after discharge. One first-time mother recalled of her son,

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Is Diet To Blame

Researchers dont know why autistic children are more likely to have stomach problems, but picky eating and other dietary restrictions characteristic of some children with ASD seem to play a role in their GI troubles.

Children with ASD are known to experience feeding problems and related dietary issues, explained William Sharp, Ph.D., director of the Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program at Marcus Autism Center and an assistant professor of autism and related disorders at Emory University. These concerns most often involve strong preferences for fats, snacks, and processed food, and rejection of fruits and vegetables. This pattern of food selectivity may lead to or make worse GI symptoms, such as abdominal pain or constipation.

Over the long-term, these GI symptoms can be damaging. Dr. Barbara McElhanon, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University, says that accidents, even by toilet-trained children, are one possible consequence. Children with gastroesophageal reflux disease are also at an increased risk for esophageal cancer if the condition is left untreated.

Effective communication is challenging for any child, but it can be especially difficult for children with autism to express themselves.

McElhanon recommends that doctors ask parents of children with ASD specifically about their GI functions and symptoms.

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