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Autism and eating challenges

It is reported that 89% of autistic children have some form of difficulty associated with feeding and eating behaviours, compared to 35% of children in general.  


Eventually, most children will begin to accept new foods, which enables them to enjoy a varied and healthy diet. 

However, two thirds of parents of autistic children report that their child is reluctant to try new foods. 

There can be many challenges associated with eating. These include food selectivity, where a person eats a limited variety of foods. Food selectivity can also mean only eating crunchy food, specific brands, or from certain food outlets. Food selectivity can extend to only eating certain coloured foods, textures or shapes.  

Other challenges experienced include difficulty sitting for meals, which is thought to impact 89% of those who have challenges with eating. More than half experience periods of spontaneously eliminating food from their diet after previously eating it, with 1 in 10 refusing to touch certain foods or utensils. 

Autistic young people might also experience difficulties with PICA, where a person eats or mouths non-edible items. This can be extremely dangerous and shouldn’t be ignored.  

Eating disorders, such as anorexia are also presented as challenges for some autistic people. 

Food selectivity and other eating challenges can lead to nutritional deficiencies, as well as tooth decay. If you are concerned about any of these difficulties, or anything to do with your child’s well-being, it is important to speak with either your GP, health visitor, paediatrician, or dietitian as soon as possible.   

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