Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Sensory processing and the self care task of eating in children with autism

Jeanne Zobel-Lachiusa, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The incidence of autism has increased from an average of one in 88 to one in 110 (Center for Disease Control, 2010; ADDM Network, 2012). Autism spectrum disorders are an important health and educational problem affecting many areas of daily living, (CDC, 2012; Cermak, S., et al, 2010). Over 80 percent of children diagnosed with autism demonstrate sensory modulation symptoms and related behaviors such as sensory seeking, sensory avoiding, self-stimulation, etc, (Kintwell, et al, 2011; Ben-Sasson, et al, 2009; Tomchek & Dunn, 2006).^ There is some beginning evidence found in the literature that sensory processing of children on the autism spectrum interferes with their daily routines (Nadon, et al, 2011; Stein, et al, 2011/2012; Schaff, et al, 2011), and there is a paucity of research which addresses the impact sensory processing has on the daily routine of eating. This study will contribute to this expanding body of knowledge.^ Eating difficulties are a frequent problem for children on the autism spectrum (Nadon, et al, 2011; Schreck & Williams, 2006) which impacts their physical health (Lukens & Linscheid, 2008), their functioning in the family (Schaff, et al, 2001) and their functioning in educational settings (Koenig & Rudney, 2010). This study assesses the differences in sensory processing and eating problem behaviors between two groups of children, aged 5 -12 years, those identified on the autism spectrum (N=34) and those typically developing (N=34).^ Data was collected through parent and child questionnaires that assessed sensory processing and eating behaviors (BAMBI, Short Sensory Profile, Sensory Eating Checklist, and Touch Inventory for Elementary-Aged Children). Results of the t test, anovas and correlation analyses revealed statistically significant differences on all measures between both samples (p<.001) and demonstrated a moderate to strong positive correlation between eating problem behaviors and sensory processing difficulties with correlation coefficients ranging from .548-.947. This study provides preliminary data supporting the connection between sensory processing difficulties and eating difficulties in children with autism. It is important to identify these difficulties because with increased identification, improved and informed support and treatment can be provided for the children and their families.^

Subject Area

Special education

Recommended Citation

Zobel-Lachiusa, Jeanne, "Sensory processing and the self care task of eating in children with autism" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3589231.