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New study says kids with autism more likely to be picky eaters

A new study in the United States claims that picky eating could be a sign of autism in children and that parents should keep an eye on their children's eating habits. However, experts in India differ.

Many children are picky when it comes to food, and avoid new tastes. Not many parents take this seriously and that may not be a good idea. Now, comes a new study that says picky eating habits could be an early sign of autism and it may be a good idea to get a professional opinion.

Dr U Vivek, a consultant psychiatrist, who works closely with children with autism., however, says binge eating or picky eating need not be a sign of autism necessarily.

Some children with autism tend to have their favourite foods. For instance, they want to have noodles as a meal all three times a day. But binge eating cannot definitely be seen as symptom of autism. Parents have to be watchful if the child has eye contact issues, social and communication delays, attention hyperactivity problems or issues with loud sounds. These are the most common symptoms for autism. - Dr U Vivek, Consultant Psychiatrist.

The new study, headed by Dr Susan Mayes, who is the Professor of Psychiatry, Penn State College of Medicine, United States, involved over 2,000 parents and children. Children with and without autism were monitored for their eating habits. Kids with autism were seven times more picky. Dr Mayes said it is extremely important to look into the symptoms and screen them if necessary.

The study says doctors and other experts must now look into the eating habits of children who come in for autism screening. Food habits do matter.

Seema Lal, Co-founder of TogetherWeCan, a parent support group in Kerala, points out that as autism is a spectrum disorder, one cannot single out any one factor.

"Not all picky eaters have autism. But yes, children with autism are more likely to be picky eaters than others. It totally depends on their sensory avoidance and sensory seeking needs. It is good to focus on solutions to help a child struggling with autism than use it only for diagnosis. Waiting for them to get hungry and then giving the same food will not work for those under the spectrum. So, let us not be quick to label any child, instead focus on how to help the struggling child and parent", says Seema.

ALSO READ: Children with autism more prone to sleep problems, says focused study

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