Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sensory Processing and Eating Problems in Children with Autism

By Lee Wilkinson -

Atypical or unusual sensory responses are common in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and often one of the earliest indicators of autism in childhood. Although sensory processing problems are not universal or exclusive to this neurodevelopmental disorder, a large percentage of children with ASD (78 to 90%) have sensory processing problems. These are mostly problems of sensory modulation expressed as hyper-or hypo-reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/heat/cold, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement). When present, sensory problems may interfere with performance in many developmental and functional domains across home and school contexts, including daily living activities such as eating. Research suggests that extreme reactions or rituals involving taste, smell, texture, or appearance of food or excessive food restrictions are fairly common and may be a presenting feature of ASD. This includes “selective” or “picky eating,” which is defined as eating a limited variety of food and refusal to eat or taste new foods.

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