Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) commonly exhibit nutrition-related challenges such as food selectivity, sensory abnormalities, negative mealtime behaviors, and gastrointestinal issues. However, despite their increased risk of poor nutrition status, there is limited literature on how medical professionals and parents of children with autism perceive the role of registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) in addressing nutrition needs. This study focused on exploring medical professional and parent perspectives about the role of RDNs providing nutrition care to children with ASD. Additionally, this study aimed to identify nutrition-related topics of interest and desired resources for medical professionals and parents. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with interdisciplinary medical professionals (i.e., board certified behavior analysts, pediatricians, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists) and parents of children with ASD. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, verified by researchers, and double coded using the constant comparative method. The study included 22 parents of children with autism (mean age 6.8 years) and 21 medical professionals serving children with ASD in the state of California. Thematic analysis of transcripts revealed that although some medical professionals and parents perceived RDNs as helpful, many questioned their competency to offer nutrition care to children on the spectrum. Consequently, despite observing nutrition-related challenges, most medical professionals rarely referred patients to RDNs and parents reported limited knowledge of or contact with RDNs. Both groups expressed a need for more education and resources on addressing food rigidity and selectivity, dietary supplementation, and dietary guidelines specific to children with ASD. These findings reveal a potential need for increased visibility of RDNs among interdisciplinary professionals caring for children with ASD. As RDNs are uniquely qualified to provide nutrition-related educational resources for medical professionals and families, those with limited experience with autism may benefit from more training opportunities to effectively address nutritional challenges of the population.
|Commitee:||Barrack, Michelle, Dekofsky, Brooke|
|School:||California State University, Long Beach|
|Department:||Family and Consumer Sciences|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||MAI 82/10(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Nutrition, Public health, Disability studies, Mental health|
|Keywords:||Autism Spectrum Disorder, Medical professional perceptions, Parental perceptions, Pediatric nutrition, Qualitative research, Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, California|
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