Onset, Trajectory, and Pattern of Feeding Difficulties in Toddlers Later Diagnosed with Autism

Kevin Ashley, Mary Beth Steinfeld, Gregory S. Young, Sally Ozonoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To examine the emergence and trajectory of feeding difficulties in young children who are later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). METHODS: The Behavioral Pediatrics Feeding Assessment Scale (BPFAS) was administered to a sample of 93 toddlers with an older sibling with ASD-the high-risk group-and 62 toddlers with no known familial ASD-the low-risk group-as part of a larger infant sibling study. The BPFAS was completed by parents at 15, 18, 24, and 36 months of age. At 36 months, participants underwent a diagnostic assessment and were classified into 1 of the following 4 outcome groups: ASD, nontypical development, high-risk typically developing, and low-risk typically developing. The BPFAS was scored for total frequency of feeding difficulties and autism-specific factor scores previously described in the literature. RESULTS: The frequency of feeding difficulties increased significantly more rapidly in the ASD group between 15 and 36 months of age, and by 36 months, they exhibited a significantly higher total frequency score than all other groups. Analysis of the factor scores revealed a similar pattern for the food acceptance and mealtime behavior domains but no significant differences in the medical/oral motor domain. CONCLUSION: Feeding difficulties develop significantly more rapidly in children with ASD, with longitudinal monitoring revealing the steeper trajectory earlier than can be detected with cross-sectional analysis. Children with ASD are at risk of health and social consequences of poor feeding behavior that may potentially be minimized if addressed early and appropriately.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-171
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Volume41
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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