Strong links between diet & signs of autism, say experts
A healthy diet is essential for the physical and mental well-being of a child. Today, there are many processed foods available and parents are mostly ignorant of what goes into them. This is dangerous and when you have child on the autism spectrum, it is even more important to be careful and watch over his or her food habits and become extremely careful about their child's diet patterns.
A study conducted by a team of researchers at the Arizona State University in the United States has shown that a modified diet can do wonders to a child who has autism spectrum disorder. Professor James Adams and his team looked into the diet patterns of 67 children and adults with autism for over a year. They found that foods with soy, gluten and casein should be taken out of the diet of children with autism. It helps improve their IQ levels and keeps them physically fit.
Minal Joshi, an occupational therapist agrees and says that regardless of whether a child is disabled or not, junk food must be eliminated as much as possible from a child's diet.
There are certain chemicals and preservatives in foods that can affect children in many ways. Foods free of gluten and casein are recommended for children with autism as it helps with their physical and mental progress. Parents must also try and avoid foods with high fat content. Unhealthy foods can affect the concentration of the child, making them restless. -Minal Joshi, Occupational Therapist
Most children with autism can be fussy when it comes to food habits and this might result in them missing out on essential nutrients like calcium and protein. This makes it important for parents to closely supervise the child's diet, fix routines, take the guidance of nutritionists or experts.
Smitha, mother to a teenager with autism, prefers home cooked food for her daughter.
"My child was always hyper as a kid so doctors suggested giving her foods wherein she can release a lot of energy. Now that she is 14 years old, I am more careful about her diet. She loves to eat a lot because this is the age where hormonal changes also happen. Food habits play a crucial role there too. I divide her meal times so that she does not over eat. Even if she feels like eating bakery food, I make that at home. Outside food is a strict no. I think it works well with children who have autism.".
On the other hand, Grace, mother to a teen with autism, gives her son whatever he feels like eating. "Some people say that gluten free foods are good for children with autism. They suggest staying away from milk, sugar and so on. But frankly, I give my son whatever he feels like having. There are no restrictions. There is no one approach that fits all. But, given the high salt and sodium content in food, some vigilance over the diet of your child is always recommended.