The effectiveness of a newly designed diet programme for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder at Park School, Kilmarnock.
Background: Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition which causes issues with social interaction, communication and cognitive functions. The severity of these issues can vary across a vast spectrum. Food selectivity and refusal is common among children with ASD and can have whole food groups absent from their diet, therefore increasing their risk of a nutritionally inadequate dietary intake. ASD children may refuse certain foods based on their various characteristics such as smell, colour and/or texture. Often food selectivity and refusal is accompanied by poor mood and heightened anxiety for the child, which may lead to undesirable meal time behaviours. Aim: To investigate the effectiveness of a specifically designed dietary intervention programme and how this has an effect on the individual child’s dietary intake. Design: 3 individual case studies were conducted using a specifically designed dietary intervention programme, uniquely designed for each participant. Dependent on the participant 5 or 6 interventions took place in order to introduce a new healthy food previously missing from their diet. This food was chosen by conducting a Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) in order to identify the absent food group as well as a 24-hour dietary recall that was analysed to identify the nutritional adequacy of each diet. This food was introduced using a positive-reinforcement intervention specifically designed for each participant. Results: Participant 1 showed good progress, with highly increased interaction levels with the food stimuli by the end of intervention 6, as well as having reduced anxiety levels and increased positive mood levels by this time also. Participant 2 showed little progress by the end of intervention 5, they were still refusing the food stimuli and had increased anxiety levels as well as poor mood levels. Participant 3 made some progress, showing some increased interaction with the food stimuli by intervention 5 with their mood and anxiety levels being unaffected by the intervention. Conclusion: Overall, the dietary intervention had some success in improving participant’s interaction with the selected food stimuli offered however none of the participants actually ate the food stimuli offered therefore there was no new food introduced into the participant’s everyday diet. Key Words: ASD, Food Selectivity, Intervention, Nutrition, Autism