Autistic children usually suffer from problems related to behavior, communication and social interaction. Therapies for autism are usually directed towards these problems, but fail to focus on other concerns surrounding autism.
Aside from the above behavioral problems of children, autistic individuals may also have problems regarding nutrition. There may be difficulties surrounding an autistic child’s diet that may lead to under eating as well as overeating. Between the two, overeating is the major problem in autism.
Reasons for Weight Gaining in Autism
Most autistic children are observed to be overweight because of overeating. There are a lot of reasons surrounding autism as a cause for being overweight. It is important that caregivers as well as health care providers understand these mechanisms in order to undertake essential measures to maintain the ideal body weight of autistic children. Reasons for gaining weight include:
In individuals with autism spectrum disorders, the hypothalamus may not function properly. As a result, a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have the inability to know when they are already full, leading to overeating. The hypothalamus is an important part of the brain that regulates food intake and the feeling of satiety.
- Coping Strategy
Some autistic children use over eating as a coping strategy. ASD usually provides children with various sources of stress such as sensory integration dysfunction, problems in communication and social interaction. When they are under stress or have a low self-esteem, they resort to food for comfort.
Children with ASD may also have obsessive behaviors that focus their interests on these matters. In autism, children may also include food intake or food itself as one of their special interests. This leads to overeating and subsequent weight gain.
Children and adults with ASD may also have sensory integration dysfunction. This condition affects how people adapt to different sensory stimulations. In line with this, children with autism may see food as something that provides sensory satisfaction, contributing to over eating and weight gaining.
Since autistic children are more prone to becoming overweight, proper supervision of their diet is very important. Maintaining an ideal body weight prevents other potential complications of autism.
Children with autism have greater risks of developing heart disease than the rest of the general child population. Maintaining an ideal body weight prevents the possible development of heart diseases.
Ways to Prevent Overeating and Weight Gain
There are a lot of strategies that can be implemented in order to control over eating and prevent weight gaining in autistic children. These include:
Adjusting the environment
Controlling the environment is the simplest way of preventing overeating. Caregivers should limit children’s access to foods by putting locks on cupboards and fridges, keeping foods in out of reach places and avoiding leaving foods out in accessible places.
Autistic children also respond very well to visual reminders so putting no entry signs on fridges and cupboards may help in preventing them from accessing these areas of the house. With these measures, children with autism will only be able to consume foods at scheduled meal times.
Provide visual reminders regarding food intake
As discussed earlier, children with ASD have good response to visual reminders. Based on this, employing the following may help reduce food cravings and food intake:
- Showing empty saucepans to help them understand that the food has all gone.
- Displaying the time of the next meal.
- Having food charts to allow them to differentiate healthy foods from unhealthy ones.
- Using visual emotional tools to help them express their needs.
Children should also have behavioral therapy to help them adapt more effectively.
About The Author
Dr. Amarendra, the author writes on weight loss programs, news and discount coupons. The weight loss diet programs include Weight watchers and Nutrisystem, and you can read full review, discount coupons at Weight Loss Triumph.