In January 2014, Autism Speaks published the ATN/AIR-P tool kit Exploring Feeding Behavior in Autism: A Parent’s Guide. We were awed by the response from our community. Your emails expressed not just appreciation, but also a wealth of personal stories alongside pleas for further guidance. The result was a new Autism Speaks advice column: Food for Thought.
Over the last 12 months, the column has featured guidance from leading autism specialists on a broad array of autism-related eating and food issues. Many of our featured experts work in the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN). Others are pursuing Autism Speaks-funded research to advance understanding and treatment of autism-related eating and gastrointestinal issues. Drawing on this experience, they answered your questions with sensitivity, practical guidance and perspective.
Here are the five most-popular Food for Thought posts of 2014, based on your readership and social media shares.
#5 Parent Needs Help: 4-year-old with Autism Won’t Eat Solid Foods
My child is 4 and diagnosed with autism. He’ll eat most anything that I puree. But he refuses to eat even small pieces of solid food except for soft cheese puffs. How can I teach him to chew real food?
Advice from occupational therapist Moira Pena, of Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. The hospital is one of 14 sites in the Autism Speaks ATN.
#4 Child with Autism Won’t Eat Foods that ‘Smell’
I have two kids with autism. My oldest literally can't sit at a table with foods that "smell." That happens to be anything except pizza, bread and fruit. How can we deal with this?
Guidance from pediatric psychologist Elizabeth Pulliam, co-author of the Autism Speaks ATN/AIR-P tool kit Exploring Feeding Behavior in in Autism: A Guide for Parents. Dr. Pulliam practices within the Autism Speaks ATN at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences & Arkansas Children's Hospital.
#3 Autism and the Gluten/Casein-free Diet: When Can We Stop?
My son has been on the gluten-free casein-free diet for two years. How do I know when to take him off?
Answers and perspective from developmental pediatrician Daniel Coury, medical director of the Autism Speaks ATN. Dr. Coury is also the chief of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio.
#2 Our Son Has Asperger’s and Eats Constantly – Help!
Our 7-year-old son has Asperger’s and eats constantly. When we try to talk to him about it, he gets very upset. We try controlling what he eats and getting him outside. But he sneaks food, and it’s so hard to get him away from the television.
Step-by-step guidance from (left to right) child psychologists Michelle Spader, Rebecca Hellenthal and Jonathan Wilkins. All three work in the Autism Speaks ATN at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio.
#1 Autism and Eating Challenges: You Are Not Alone!
After reading this and realizing that I'm not alone, I'm literally crying because I carried the burden of thinking that I did something wrong with my 4 year old daughter who is on the spectrum and will only have liquids. I tortured myself thinking I was a bad mom even though I've been doing everything possible … you have no idea how much you have all just helped me. – from Facebook comments on the launch of the Autism Speaks ATN/AIR-P feeding behaviors Tool Kit.
A heartfelt response from pediatric psychologist Jayne Bellando, one of the tool kit’s co-authors. Dr. Bellando practices at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, one of 14 centers in the Autism Speaks ATN.
Need more help with issues around food, eating behaviors or special diets? Send your questions to FoodForThought@AutismSpeaks.org.
Also see the Autism Speaks ATN/AIR-P Guide to Exploring Feeding Behavior in Autism. Research suggests that more than half of individuals with autism struggle with food issues that can affect health and emotional wellbeing. This tool kit provides guidance from experts in the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network.