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Picky Eating by Autistic Kids Won't Affect Growth

Study Shows No Impact on Nutrition and Development for Kids Who Are Choosy About Diet

Picky Eating Is Not a Red Flag continued...

"At this young age, hallmarks of autism are in the social and communication areas, so if the child is socially showing interest and interaction with parents and siblings, that is a good sign," Coury says. "If the child is starting to mimic sounds and use words and repeat words like mama and dada, these are also good signs."

The new findings may not apply to the autism diet, a gluten-free, casein-free eating plan that has grown in popularity in the U.S.

"It depends on the special diet, but nutritional deficiencies are a possibility depending on what they are focused on, and some diets may require supplementing," he says. "If your child is not on a regular diet, you may need some monitoring to make sure that all their nutritional needs are being met."

Coury's advice? Run it by your doctor.

Susan Hyman MD, an associate professor of pediatrics and the division chief of neurodevelopmental and behavioral pediatrics at Golisano Children's Hospital of the University of Rochester Medical Center, N.Y., agrees. "When you manipulate what children would normally eat, you change the rules," she says. "This study would not be reassuring if your child eats a little mac and cheese, a little frozen waffle and 30 or so other foods, which is a more typical restricted autism diet," she says.

That said, "this is a lovely study and what it does is give increased awareness on the part of parents and pediatricians that feeding problems may just be feeding problems, but need to be interpreted as they may be another set of behaviors to alert you that something may be different," Hyman says.

"This is helpful information as we whittle away at the behaviors associated with autism and the health problems that are secondary to autism," she tells WebMD.

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