Growth status of children with autism spectrum disorder: a case–control study

Growth status of children with autism spectrum disorder: a case–control study

Barnhill et al., JHND Early View


Children with autism spectrum disorder are at risk of a compromised dietary intake and nutritional status that could impact growth over both the short and long term. The limited body of published research addressing this concern has been contradictory and inconclusive to date.


This case–control study investigated the height, weight, body mass index (BMI) and other anthropometric measurements of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Eighty-six children with ASD and 57 healthy controls participated in the study. Caregivers of participants who met the inclusion criteria completed a health history questionnaire, provided information on dietary intake and feeding behaviour, and completed a nutrition physical with a healthcare professional, which provided all of the anthropometric measurements required for the study.


Body mass index and BMI Z-scores for females with ASD and corresponding healthy controls were significantly different. Female participants with ASD had significantly lower BMI and BMI Z-scores than control participants. The prevalence of risk for failure-to-thrive status was consistent across ASD subjects and controls. The prevalence of overweight and obesity was consistent across ASD subjects and controls. Children with ASD comprised 60% of the total number of children across BMI categories and mid-arm muscle circumference percentile ranges, which is consistent with the proportion of children in the overall sample.


More research is needed to fully assess physical status and potential growth concerns of children with ASD. A full physical assessment should be a component of primary care for all children with ASD.


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