Food selectivity in children with autism
: Exploring the effectiveness of an intervention based on differential reinforcement

  • Andrea Moldovan-Grunfeld

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Food selectivity is a common cause of concern in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In fact, food selectivity is twice as common in children with autism than in typically developing children. The present research started with a systematic literature to review existing studies that examine the effectiveness of behaviour analytic interventions targeting an increase in diet variety. Results showed that a variety of behavioural principles and strategies were combined in these interventions, with the two most frequently used being reinforcement and escape extinction. The absence of functional assessment and preference assessments was noted. Three studies were conducted based on the above findings by implementing a rigorous and replicable intervention protocol that included functional assessment and preference assessment and resulted in the increase of variety of diet for participants diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The studies used a changing criterion research design to evaluate food acceptance under individualised differential reinforcement of alternative behaviour (DRA) conditions. Findings are discussed in the context of intervention effectiveness and impact of using functional assessment and preference assessment.
Date of AwardJul 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorKarola Dillenburger (Supervisor) & Katerina Dounavi (Supervisor)


  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • diet
  • Autism
  • Applied behaviour analysis,
  • differential reinforcement

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