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Parent Training May Improve Autistic Children’s Diet

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on October 18, 2013


Background: Anecdotal evidence demonstrates that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often have problems maintaining a regular diet, and studies suggest that this population is at a greater risk for nutritional issues—including vitamin deficiencies, poor bone growth, and obesity.


What’s New: On October 7, 2013, the journal Autism published a pilot study evaluating a curriculum for parents to address feeding issues in children with ASD. The program, called the Autism MEAL Plan, was administered over eight training sessions and covered behavior management strategies, specific interventions for ASD-associated feeding issues, and tactics to promote self-feeding. 30 families began the study, completing a series of evaluations to assess dietary issues, general health, and stress experience by parents. Of the 19 families continuing on with the study, 10 completed Autism MEAL Plan training, reporting a significant reduction in parental stress as compared to the control group. However, no significant differences between groups existed regarding feeding behaviors and dietary variety following the intervention.


Why it’s important: This study provides preliminary evidence to support parental training programs for the sake of improving meal time for children with ASD. However, because so few families participated, further research is needed to provide conclusive results.

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