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

Authors
  • Zickgraf, Hana1
  • Mayes, Susan D.1
  • 1 Penn State College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry H073, 500 University Dr, Hershey, PA, 17033, USA , Hershey (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities
Publisher
Springer US
Publication Date
Dec 19, 2018
Volume
31
Issue
3
Pages
399–418
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s10882-018-9645-6
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

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.

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