The role of sensory sensitivity in predicting food selectivity and food preferences in children with Tourette syndrome
Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by involuntary, repetitive and non-rhythmic motor and vocal tics. Despite suggestion that diet may affect tics, and the substantial research into children's diet, eating behaviours and sensory processing in comorbid disorders (e.g. ASD), research in TS is lacking. The present study examined differences between children with and without TS in parental reports of child selective eating, food preferences and sensitivity, and aimed to examine sensory sensitivity as a predictor of food selectivity outcomes in children with and without TS. Thirty caregivers of children with TS (M = 10 years 8 months [SD = 2.40]) and the caregivers of 30 age- and sex-matched typically developing (TD) children (M = 9 years 9 months [SD = 2.50]) completed the following measures online: Short Sensory Profile, Food Preference Questionnaire for Children, Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire. Children with TS were reported to have significantly higher levels of food selectivity and sensory sensitivity, and less preference for fruit and vegetables than TD children. Importantly, while higher levels of overall sensory sensitivity predicted eating outcomes in the TS group, only sensitivity to taste/smell was found to be a predictor of food selectivity and preference for vegetables for both groups of children. The findings suggest that efforts to address food selectivity in children with TS may be enhanced by including strategies that address atypical sensory processing.