Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2017

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Communication Sciences and Disorders

Program or Major

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Rae Sonnenmeier

Second Advisor

Allan Smith


Food selectivity or “picky eating” affects a large percentage of children on the autism spectrum and as a result can have negative impacts on a child’s health and nutritional status (Cermak, Curtin, & Bandini, 2010). Few studies compare food selectivity in children on the autism spectrum to children with other developmental issues. Such a comparison may reveal how food selectivity presents itself uniquely in children on the autism spectrum. This study examined data from past health records collected from the Seacoast Childhood Development Center (SCDC). Thirty-eight children whose parents were concerned about their diets were taken from a larger sample of 103. In this sample, 13 had autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 25 had other developmental diagnoses (ODD). Using past health records, food frequency questionnaires, and a classification system created by Berry and Sharp (2016), the study compared food selectivity, textural issues, parental concerns and food preferences among diagnoses. A significantly larger proportion of children in the ASD group were classified as “picky eaters” by their parents, had textural issues and preferred grains when compared to the ODD group. Relationships between food selectivity and diagnosis were insignificant. The Berry and Sharp classification system was only effective in determining children in the severe category. Because modifications had to be made to the classification system in this study, adding a food item column to the Food Frequency Questionnaire given to parents at the clinic could be suggested for the future.