Psychological, Health, and Demographic Correlates of Atypical Eating Behaviors in Children with Autism

Hana Zickgraf, Susan Mayes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Potential psychological, health, and demographic correlates of atypical eating behaviors in children with autism were analyzed in the largest sample with the broadest range of independent variables to date. Eating behaviors were assessed in 1112 children with autism 1–17 years of age using the Checklist for Autism Spectrum Disorder (CASD), a standardized parent interview conducted by licensed psychologists. Independent variables were demographics (age, IQ, sex, race, and parent occupation), 29 CASD autism symptom scores (e.g., distress with change and sensory hypersensitivity), psychotropic medication use, and maternal ratings on the Pediatric Behavior Scale assessing psychopathology (e.g., behavior problems, ADHD, anxiety, and depression), appetite, weight, gastrointestinal problems, and other health problems. Atypical eating behaviors were found in 70.5% of children and were positively related to only four variables: age (most common at ages 1–3), increasing autism severity (total number of autism symptoms present), poor appetite, and constipation. Given the high prevalence of atypical eating behaviors in autism and their presence at a very young age, primary care and early intervention providers should be alert to these problems and if present, consider the possibility of autism and a referral for a diagnostic evaluation so that children with autism can access behavioral intervention shown to be effective in treating autism in toddlers and young preschoolers, as well as in treating the atypical eating behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-418
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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