Dietary Intake and Parents' Perception of Mealtime Behaviors in Preschool-Age Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and in Typically Developing Children


      Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently report that their children have selective eating behaviors and refuse many foods, which could result in inadequate nutrient intake. This preliminary cross-sectional descriptive study investigated dietary intake and parents' reported perception of food behaviors of 20 3- to 5-year-old children with ASD. Twenty typically developing children matched for sex, age, and ethnicity were also studied as a case-control comparison. Nutrient intake determined from 3-day food records was adjusted for day-to-day variation to determine the estimate of usual intake distribution for the two groups. This distribution was compared with the Estimated Average Requirement or Adequate Intake recommendations. The reported food behaviors and use of vitamin or mineral supplements were compared for matched pairs using the exact McNemar test. Nutrient intake was similar for both groups of children, with the majority of children consuming more than the recommended amounts for most nutrients. Nutrients least likely to be consumed in recommended amounts were vitamin A, vitamin E, fiber, and calcium. Children with ASD were more likely to consume vitamin/mineral supplements than typically developing children. Compared with parents of typically developing children, parents of children with ASD were more likely to report that their children were picky eaters and resisted trying new foods, and they were less likely to describe their children as healthy eaters or that they eat a variety of foods. Despite the similar and generally adequate nutrient intake for the 40 children in this study, parents of children with ASD had more negative perceptions of their children's dietary behaviors.
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      D. W. Lockner is an associate professor, Nutrition Program, Department of Individual, Family, and Community Education, College of Education, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.


      T. K. Crowe is a professor, Division of Occupational Therapy, Department of Pediatrics, and B. J. Skipper is a professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque.