Student Poster

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Speech-Language Pathologist Collaboration, Treatment Knowledge & Intervention Approaches for Pediatric Feeding Disorder in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Mixed Methods Study

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An estimated 46-89% of children with autism present with pediatric feeding disorder, characterized by selective eating, which negatively impacts their nutrition and health. Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN) and speech-language pathologists (SLP) serve as key interprofessional team members to improve patient outcomes in this population.
A lack of literature exists regarding the complementary roles of RDNs and SLPs specifically related to pediatric feeding disorders in the pediatric population with autism spectrum disorder. This explanatory sequential mixed-methods study aimed to explore the impact of collaboration between RDNs and SLPs on treatment knowledge and use of evidence-based intervention methods for pediatric feeding disorder in children with autism. An electronic survey of practice was disseminated to RDNs and SLPs, followed by individual interviews with 10 RDNs and 10 SLPs.
In total, 248 responses were received and analyzed. More than 60% of RDNs and 70% of SLPs reported comprehensive to extensive knowledge of assessment and treatment of pediatric feeding disorder in children with autism. Lower-level evidence-based intervention approaches were reportedly used more frequently by RDNs and SLPs than higher-level evidence-based intervention approaches. Semi-structured interviews with 20 participants expanded on the impact of RDN and SLP collaboration on their treatment knowledge and treatment approaches. Interviewees discussed their roles in treatment of pediatric feeding disorder in children with autism which impacts the process and purpose of their collaboration and is affected by organizational and interpersonal facilitators and barriers.
These findings reveal clinicians as highly knowledgeable in their area of practice, yet their knowledge lacks an evidence-base which may hinder their ability to track progress in patients over time. Clinically applicable, high-level evidence-based interventions must be researched further to provide clinicians with guidelines to improve selective eating in children with autism and consequentially their overall health. Collaboration between RDNs and SLPs, who treat this population, is advantageous to both the patient and provider and RDNs and SLPs should seek opportunities for collaboration with each other that best fit their practice setting.
This interprofessional student poster fulfills the priority criteria of including a student on the author and presenting team. This interprofessional student poster also fulfills the priority criteria as it shares the perspective of providers and their collaboration with each other in treating the feeding and nutritional implications in children with autism.