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  • Writer's pictureAmy Dougley

What is Food Selectivity or “Picky Eating?”

Food selectivity can be characterized by food refusal, limited repertoire of food, excessive intake of food or certain food categories. Many children often will go through mild feeding or eating problems through their development, however those diagnosed with ASD are

at higher rates.

When looking at food selectivity, it is important to rule out any medical conditions first.

What should be ruled out first?

1. A thorough dental examination should be conducted to determine if there are any

hidden problems that may be causing your child pain. Oral hygiene can be a challenge for those diagnosed with ASD which can lead to cavities, root canals, gum infections or other


2. Alongside dental care, medical assessments evaluating oral motor function such as swallowing, food sensitivity/allergies, medications, and more should be assessed.

Studies have shown and are not limited to the following factors:

Medical conditions such as dental problems, esophageal problems, oral motor function

and more Behavioural aspects such as pica (ingesting non-food substances), rumination

(regurgitation, re-chewing, re-swallowing or vomiting food), eating disorders and more Sensory aspects such as the feel or touch of food, temperature, texture, smell of food,

or even appearance.

How to promote healthy eating habits for your child?

It is no known secret that children like what they like and will prefer to eat the same things often or for every meal. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies and other health issues.

Introducing new foods gradually can help! Placing new food separate from what they enjoy and providing choices with no expectations can help your child try something new. They can get a feel for the texture, smell, or look of the new item being introduced. Also having siblings or family members model eating the food item might get your child to try it!


Cermak, S. A., Curtin, C., & Bandini, L. G. (2010). Food selectivity and sensory sensitivity in children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of the American Dietetic

Association, 110(2), 238–246.

Ledford, Jennifer & Gast, David. (2006). Feeding Problems in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders A Review. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities. 21. 153-166.10.1177/10883576060210030401.

Wheeler, M. (n.d.). Mealtime and children on the autism spectrum: Beyond picky, fussy, and

fads. Indiana Resource Center for Autism.


This blog was written by Behavioural Therapist, Neha. To book a free consultation with Neha, call us at 519.751.0728 or email

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