As I have written before, I am both an anthropologist and clinical psychologist. In my latter role, one of the populations with whom I work is children and adults with Asperger’s Syndrome. Over the years I have noticed that a child who has Asperger’s Syndrome can be “finicky” when s/he eats. In this post, I want to alert our general audience to this issue. Before I do so, however, I want to make it very clear that I am not taking any position whatsoever that diet causes Asperger’s or Autism Spectrum disorder or that diet can “cure” or help “cure” this condition. If you are interested in this question, you should do your own searches, being very careful to make sure that the sources are reliable and the science credible.
Lots of children can be finicky eaters and not have Asperger’s. Conversely, lots of “Aspies” can eat all kinds of foods. What I’ve noticed is that many Asperger’s children can react extremely to some textures, smells, tastes, and some ingredients. One seven year old I treat endlessly eats macaroni and cheese—and only a certain brand. Another really, really, enjoys peanut butter. Many don’t like fruits and vegetables. Others don’t like milk products or gluten-filled products. The websites listed below can give you some additional ideas about these sensitivities.
There are other complications as well. First of all, I see a lot of OCD—Obsessive Compulsive Disorder—behaviors in these kids. That means that they may also not like one food touching another on the plate or one food mixed in with another. I also see that many Aspies change as they age. They may still limit what they eat, but they may expand their horizons. For those of us who are parents as well as anthropologists, we see how kids grow into their adult eating habits and that they then normalize these habits as part of the larger culture.
As a psychologist, I advise the parents to explore with their child what they can eat—all under the supervision of your pediatrician and a nutritionist. I recommend that parents engage in blogging on the many sites available about this topic to see what others have tried. As an anthropologist, I wonder what kinds of impacts these preferences will make on the culture’s eating habits.