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Medical / Dietary Needs

What you need to know

Medical:

  • Children with autism may have medical conditions that are part of an underlying syndrome or that exist in combination with autism.  It is important to treat underlying medical conditions, while considering the unique needs of a child who has autism.
    • For example, if the child has seizures, they may require medication and an emergency plan for seizures. Or, they may need to know “the plan” in advance of blood work or a visit to the school nurse.  It is important to work closely with families and doctors to learn about the child’s individualized medical needs.
    • School age children with ASD may have multiple doctor and specialist visits to monitor medical conditions.
  • Medications - There are no medications that can cure ASD or treat the core symptoms. However, there are medications that can help some people with ASD function better.
    • Children with autism may have high energy levels, inability to focus, depression, or seizures. For those children, medication might be considered or be part of an existing plan.

Dietary Approaches:

  • Some dietary treatments have been developed by reliable therapists. Many of these treatments do not have the scientific support needed for widespread recommendation. An unproven treatment might help one child, but may not help another.
  • Many biomedical interventions call for changes in diet. Such changes include removing certain types of foods from a child’s diet and using vitamin or mineral supplements. Dietary treatments are based on the idea that food allergies or lack of vitamins and minerals cause symptoms of ASD. Some parents feel that dietary changes make a difference in how their child acts or feels.
  • If a parent is thinking about changing a child’s diet, they should talk to the child’s doctor first. Parents can also talk with a nutritionist to be sure the child is getting important vitamins and minerals.

What you can do

  • Be supportive of the parent’s wishes as far as dietary adjustments and their effect on their child’s behavior or condition.
  • Consult a dietician on texture of foods and their effect on the child’s dietary intake if there are issues related to diet and texture of foods. An occupational therapist or speech therapist may be helpful with sensory issues related to food.
  • Be aware if the child has seizures and if a seizure protocol is in place. Make sure the seizures are considered before field trips and during physical activity.
  • A yearly check-up and studies as needed should occur in the child’s Medical Home. 
  • Be aware of any changes in behavior or mood that seem out of line with the situation and notify the parents.
  • It is important to be aware of any academic changes.  Contact parents when any differences are noticed.