Can a school-based intervention increase fruit and vegetable consumption for children with Autism?

Charlotte Taylor, Penney Upton, Dominic Upton

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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neuro-developmental disorder, typically charact-erised by difficulties in social interaction, communication and imagination (Wing, 1996). However, children with ASD are also likely to experience problems in processing sensory-perceptual information, including taste, smell and touch (Boucher, 2009; Nadon et al., 2011). Indeed, research has shown that children with ASD often exhibit several difficulties in feeding and mealtime behaviours including food selectivity, based on texture and taste (Johnson et al., 2008; Nadon et al., 2011), food refusal and disruptive mealtime behaviours (Nadon et al., 2010). However, behavioural differences in children with ASD do not always translate to differences in nutritional intake when compared to their typically-developing peers (Johnson, Handen, Mayer-Costa & Sacco, 2008). In addition to feeding difficulties, research has also identified that children with developmental disorders such as ASD are more likely to be overweight or obese compared to typically-developing children (De, Small & Baur, 2008). In light of this, interventions that aim to improve eating behaviours may be beneficial for these children. As children spend a large proportion of their time in school, the school environment is recognised as a logical setting for implementing healthy eating interventions. Interventions to promote fruit and vegetable consumption in the school environment are varied in their theoretical approach, however three strategies that have been shown to have a reliable effect on children's fruit and vegetable consumption are taste exposure, peer modelling and rewards (Horne, Lowe, Fleming & Dowey, 1995; Lowe et al., 1998), principles on which the Food Dudes programme are based. Research has suggested that the Food Dudes programme is effective in producing increases in children's lunchtime fruit and vegetable consumption (Horne et al., 2004, 2009; Lowe et al., 2004); however no published evidence, to date, has reviewed the impact of the programme for children with additional learning needs such as ASD. Research that evaluates the effectiveness of programme with this group of children is important, as evidence suggests that children with developmental disabilities such as ASD often exhibit food selectivity and limited exposure to novel tastes and textures. This preliminary study evaluated the short and long-term effectiveness of the Food Dudes intervention on lunchtime fruit and vegetable consumption for children with ASD. (PDF) Can a school-based intervention increase fruit and vegetable consumption for children with Autism?. Available from: [accessed Oct 03 2018].
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-97
Number of pages3
JournalEducation and Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


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