Clinical differences in children with autism spectrum disorder with and without food selectivity

Valentina Postorino, Veronica Sanges, Giulia Giovagnoli, Laura Maria Fatta, Lavinia De Peppo, Marco Armando, Stefano Vicari, Luigi Mazzone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several studies have described the atypical eating behaviors frequently occurring in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and food selectivity is the most frequent of these problems. The everyday management of mealtime behaviors among children with ASD can have a negative impact on family routines and become a significant stressor for families. However, much remains unknown about why food selectivity is so prevalent among individuals with ASD. The objective of this study was to investigate clinical and behavioral features in individuals with ASD with the aim of identifying distinctive clinical profiles in children with and without food selectivity. A total of 158 children with ASD were enrolled in this study: 79 participants with food selectivity (FS) were age and sex matched with 79 participants without food selectivity (No FS). All participants and their parents completed a battery of psychological tests for a comprehensive evaluation of ASD symptoms, cognitive abilities, adaptive skills, behavioral problems and parental stress level. No statistically significant difference on gastrointestinal symptoms and growth adequacy was found between the FS group and the No FS group. Overall, the FS group showed significantly higher rates of ASD symptoms as compared to the No FS group in the questionnaires completed by parents. Furthermore, parents of the FS group reported significantly higher levels of parental stress and a larger degree of their children's behavioral problems as compared to the No FS group. Finally, there were no differences between the FS and the No FS group on any adaptive skill domain. Our findings suggest that the identification of distinctive clinical and behavioral patterns in children with ASD and food selectivity is a crucial issue for parents and therapists in the daily management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-132
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Behavioral profile
  • Children
  • Food selectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Psychology(all)


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