Why is my child with ASD a picky eater?
– By Courtney Kuchan, BCBA

Most parents are concerned with their child’s eating habits, and having a child with autism seems to only increase these worries. Some of the kids we provide care to only want to eat a certain food (like a specific brand of chicken nuggets), or refuse to eat anything that falls into a particular category (such as all things green).

Many times, parents/caregivers simply don’t feel empowered to actually make an informed decision about how to curb some of these ‘bad habits’, and as such the process becomes even more frustrating for all members of the family! Below is a brief list of some of the underlying causes of food selectivity – or even outright refusal – for children living with autism spectrum disorder. Please reach out to our team if we can provide any additional support or information in this area.

– Medical conditions
– Sensory concerns
– Previous painful or aversive experiences with certain foods
– To exert choice
– Problem behaviors were associated with mealtime
– Limited motivation to try new or nonpreferred foods
– Dependence on routine or sameness

Despite the many barriers and causes, food refusal and selectivity can be addressed using a safe, compassionate, and trusting approach. To learn more about treatment for food selectivity and refusal, contact Courtney, our Director of Program Development at

Ruppel, K., Ghaemmaghami, M., & Hanley, G. (2022, September 19-22). FTF Live Worcester Workshop: Treating Food Selectivity without Tears [Conference presentation]. Mechanics Hall, Worcester, MA, United States.

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