Autism and eating issues: an interview with Dr Elizabeth Shea

Dr Elizabeth Shea is Clinical Psychologist at the Birmingham Food Refusal Service. Elizabeth kindly agreed to be interviewed for Network Autism when she attended the XI Autism-Europe International Congress hosted by the National Autistic Society in 2016.

In this video Elizabeth discusses some of the common eating issues that autistic people may experience. She explores why autistic people may struggle with eating issues and outlines how professionals can best support them.

You can view the full interview or clips of the individual questions below.

Full interview


Individual interview questions

1. Can you tell us how you first became interested in autism?

2. Can you tell us about your current work?

3. What are the most common eating issues that you see for autistic people?

4. Can you highlight some of the reasons why autistic people may develop eating issues?

5. What are the most effective treatments for eating issues for autistic people?

6. What advice would you have for professionals working with autistic people who maybe struggling with eating issues?

Author: Dr Elizabeth Shea

Date added: 11 January 2017



Fri, 27/01/2017 - 08:36

Great advice here.  Totally agree with Dr Shea.  As a psychotherapeutic counsellor I have also noted a need in young people to have something that is in their control when high school and the looming choices of further education or work seem so unpredictable and new.  There is more emphasis on thinking for yourself and less on strict routines.  Food can be one thing that they can control.  This is usually linked with losing weight to stay younger or not gaining weight in order for things to stay the same.  I agree that anxiety plays a bit part. 

I am also a parent with a daughter with autism who is now aged 21 and has always had a restricted diet.  We have found similar foods to the ones that she likes in her restricted diet and she has over the years added these to her diet.  It is something that she continues to do.  Great discussion, thank you.

Mon, 13/02/2017 - 15:49

Dr Shea 'hits the nail on the head' regarding eating issues in this video, however her speech is far to rapid and overwhelming to be easily processed by most autistic individuals. I hope the speed at which she spoke was merely for the video, as we all know ability to process and understand speech, can be serious issues for those who are on the spectrum. 

Tue, 19/02/2019 - 19:27

How can I receive some support and help on the difficulties I'm having my son he only eats Chocolate buttons and drinks milkshake. Please point my in the right direction.