All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Fred J Biasini

Advisory Committee Members

Michelle Mastin

Sylvie Mrug

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2014

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Many parents of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) describe their child as a picky eater (Rogers et al., 2012; Suarez et al., 2014). Compared to typically developing children, children with a diagnosis of ASD are reported to experience more sensory sensitivity to the taste, smell, or texture of food (Baranek et al., 2006; Lane, Molloy, & Bishop, 2014; Nadon et al., 2011; Schoen et al., 2009), present with anxious behaviors that may relate to food (Farrow & Coulthard, 2012; Williams et al., 2001), and have a variety of mealtime problem behaviors (Bandini et al., 2010; Dominick et al., 2007; Suarez et al., 2014; Williams et al., 2000). However, not many studies have investigated predictors of mealtime problem behavior in picky eating children with and without a diagnosis of ASD. Problem behaviors are believed to result from a poor ability to cope with anxiety or stress (Bronsard et al., 2010; Cermak et al., 2010). Permissive parent feeding practice may help decrease the occurrence of mealtime problem behavior but maintain poor eating patterns (Seiverling et al., 2011). The purpose of the current study is to examine a moderation model to test how the relationship between experiencing stress at mealtime (sensory sensitivity or anxiety to food) and greater mealtime problem behavior depends on having a diagnosis of an ASD, poor coping skills, poor expressive language skills, and parents' feeding style. Results indicate children who are picky eaters with and without a diagnosis of ASD who experience more sensory sensitivity to food, have poorer coping skills, and have poorer expressive language skills display more mealtime problem behaviors. The results suggest that feeding therapy with children who present with mealtime problem behavior should include teaching these children how to better cope or express difficulties they have during mealtimes. Reducing child mealtime problem behavior may also create a more positive mealtime environment for the whole family.

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