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Autism Spectrum Disorders - Nutrition for autisim, Casein free diet

“The entire range of Orgran products are gluten free & casein free. For those choosing to follow a gluten-free/casein-free diet for the management of autism, Orgran products are ideal”

What is Autism?

Autism is a life-long developmental disability, affecting the individual’s understanding of what he/she sees, hears and senses. As a result, people with autism can have problems in social relationships, communication and behaviour.

It affects all ethnic and social groups. Understanding of autism has improved greatly over the years, although there is no known cure.


Autism is a developmental disability. A person with autism will have significant difficulties in several areas of his/ her development. Individuals with autism typically show uneven skill development. All people with autism will have problems with communication, social interaction and behaviour, regardless of the level of intellectual functioning. The degree of severity of characteristics differs from person to person, but can include the following:

Communication: Autism affects the ability of a person to understand the meaning and purpose of body language and the spoken and written word. There may be delay or absence in language development, difficulties understanding speech, difficulties using language along with difficulties understanding and using gestures.

Social Interaction: Social interaction is an essential part of life for most people. For people with autism being sociable is difficult. Problems usually occur with understanding relationships, relating to others, maintaining eye contact, forming friendships, understanding other people’s thoughts and feelings. Some appear to withdraw and become isolated; others try very hard to be sociable but never seem to get it right.

Variable Sensory Responses: May appear to have selected hearing, may use peripheral vision, may show extreme fear reactions, apparent insensitivity to pain, may show lack of responsiveness to cold or heat or may overreact to any of these.

Intellectual Functioning: Uneven pattern of skills, some things may be done quite well in relation to overall functioning such as memorising dates, numbers or advertising jingles. The majority of people with autism have varying degrees of intellectual disability.

Activities and Interests: Restricted range of activities and interests: unusual repetitive body movements such as hand flicking, spinning or rocking and walking on tip-toes. It is common for autism sufferers to create rigid routines and display obsessive or ritualistic behaviours such as peeling paint/wallpaper, smelling food before eating and showing resistance to and difficulty adapting to change.

Play: a person with autism will commonly lack imaginative play skills and play with toys in a manner that is inappropriate to the function of the toy.  Examples of this include lining up textas instead of drawing with them.  Autism sufferers may have difficulty learning through imitation.

How is Autism diagnosed?
Assessments are provided by most Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, specialist pediatricians and child psychiatrists, and private teams or clinics. If affected, most children will show signs of autism by two years of age, but a diagnosis may not be confirmed until three years of age and sometimes older.

The main criteria used for diagnosis are:

  • qualitative impairment in verbal and non verbal communication
  • qualitative impairment in reciprocal social interaction
  • markedly restricted number of activities and interests and impaired imaginative play
  • symptoms evident during first 30 months of life

Autism may be diagnosed using the above criteria, or there may be varying amounts of disability in other areas of development which result in diagnosis of conditions called Asperger Syndrome or Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD - NOS). These developmental disabilities are referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders. People with these disorders are affected differently, but all require specialised assistance and support.


Behavioural and Developmental Therapy:
There is no one therapy or approach to the treatment of autistic disorders. The needs of each person vary greatly. Specialised educational approaches enhance development in social, language, self-help, co-operation and other basic skills. These are best implemented within controlled, consistent, predictable and organised routines to assist children to progress with learning. Early intervention is highly desirable.

Medication has no specific role in autism; however some may be useful to manage co-existing conditions.  For example,  anticonvulsants are required if epilepsy develops, and medications may be prescribed to treat aggression, depression and anxiety if they develop. These would be prescribed by a suitably qualified medical practitioner.

Diet Therapy:
All people benefit from a diet that is nutritionally adequate. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has produced dietary guidelines for Australians that promote healthy eating. Eating a wide variety of nutritious foods including grains and cereals, fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat foods daily is an important part of a healthy diet.

Children need appropriate food and physical activity for normal physical growth and development. It is important to achieve an adequate food intake to balance the physical activity and growth of childhood and adolescence.

There have been some suggestions that a casein-free/gluten-free diet may be beneficial in the treatment of Autism. Significant research into the role of this diet has been undertaken by the Autism Research Unit of the University of Sunderland, UK.

It is strongly recommended that anyone considering such dietary management should seek the support of their medical practitioner and an experienced accredited practicing dietitian who work in this area. The dietary restrictions can be challenging. It is recommended that you discuss your child’s diet with a dietitian to ensure that it includes all of the important nutrients necessary for growth and development.

How can Orgran products assist? 

The entire range of Orgran products are gluten free & casein free. For those choosing to follow a gluten-free/casein-free diet for the management of autism, Orgran products are ideal. For those wanting to follow general principles of healthy eating, you can enjoy the benefits of alternative grains.

Orgran Kids is an exciting range of treats and lunch box snacks designed to taste great and reassure parents that the products offer nutritional benefits. Added fibre and complex carbohydrates are just some of the features in products within the range. Orgran Kids products are Gluten Free, Casien Free, Nut Free & Soy Free.

This information was provided for general use only. Please seek medical advice from a GP or health professional before considering undertaking any diet.