July 20, 2018

“Inclusive education and nutrition may help to manage symptoms in some autistic children”

Shafiul Islam says it important for physicians to be familiar with the latest evidence on autism

Photo credit: Shafiul Islam

Shafiul Islam

Global Youth Ambassador from Bangladesh

A Global Youth Ambassador, who is also a medical professional from Bangladesh, says doctors need to work with parents on dietary changes.

  • On July 24, the United Kingdom government will co-host its first Global Disability Summit with the International Disability Alliance and the government of Kenya. It will bring together more than 700 delegates from governments, donors, private sector organisations, charities and organisations of persons with disabilities. 
  • In the run-up to the summit, we are publishing articles by Global Youth Ambassadors - a network of more than 900 young activists in over 80 countries.


Autism spectrum disorder is a complex neuro-developmental condition that covers a wide scale of symptom severity and functional impact. 

Among the possible symptoms are gastrointestinal and immunological dysfunction - these have garnered particular attention because of their common occurrence in children. 

Dysfunctions in immunological systems have also been noted in autistic children, presenting as food allergies or metabolic abnormalities.

Although no single nutritional approach and inclusive education will work for all children with autism, given the still unknown etiology of autism and its different presentation in each child, there is growing evidence that inclusive education and nutrition may play a role in managing the symptoms in some children.

As a medical professional, I am trying to explore many factors that contribute to the implementation of inclusive education and nutritional status of children with autism, including medical and nutritional aspects and behavioural factors. 

It is increasingly important for physicians who manage children with autism to become familiar with the evidence to date on inclusive education, anthropometric nutritional assessment, growth monitoring and promotion (GMP), and various nutritional approaches.

Healthcare professionals should work with parents and children to incorporate inclusive educational and nutritional approaches

Photo credit: Shafiul Islam

Some dietary approaches to managing the symptoms of autism have focused on subtracting or eliminating certain foods from the diet. 

The rationale behind this approach is that allergies and intolerances to food and food additives may play a role in the symptoms of autism.

Paediatricians, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals need to work with individual parents and their autistic children to incorporate potential inclusive educational and nutritional approaches. 

For example, paediatricians need to work with parents to monitor and report behavioural changes following dietary adjustments, along with periodic anthropometric measurements, GMP plot, allergen sensitivity testing. 

Future research on the role the gut microbiome plays in the development of the nervous system and behaviour disorders will further help target appropriate nutritional pathways to manage the symptoms of autism and future studies.

Along with a number of randomised controlled trials currently underway, it will continue to clarify the role of nutrition in helping manage the symptoms of children with autism.

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