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How Food Intolerance Can Lead to Language Delay in Children With Autism

Updated: Sep 12, 2023


A little boy lying on the carpet staring at his hands

As a parent of a child with autism, you may already be familiar with speech delay. It's a common challenge that many autistic children face, and it can be frustrating for both the child and the parent.


However, what you may not realize is that food intolerance could be a contributing factor to your child's speech delay. In this article, we will explore the link between food intolerance and language delay in children with autism, as well as strategies for helping your child overcome this obstacle.


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Understanding speech delay in children with autism

Speech delay is defined as a delay in the development of a child's language skills. In the case of children with autism, this can be particularly challenging because of the difficulties they face in social communication.


Children with autism may struggle with understanding social cues, facial expressions, and body language, which can make it difficult for them to communicate effectively with others.

Speech delay can manifest in different ways. Some children may have difficulty with articulation, while others may struggle with vocabulary or sentence structure. It's important to note that speech delay is not indicative of a lack of intelligence, and children with autism can have a wide range of strengths and weaknesses in different areas.

The link between food intolerance and language delay

Food intolerance occurs when the body has difficulty digesting certain foods. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including inflammation, digestive issues, and skin problems. In some cases, food intolerance can also contribute to speech delay in children with autism.

Research has shown that children with autism are more likely to have food intolerances than typically developing children. These intolerances can worsen autistic symptoms, including speech delay. The reason for this is not entirely clear, but it is believed to be related to inflammation in the gut, which can then affect the brain.

Common food intolerances in children with autism

The most common food intolerances in children with autism include gluten, dairy, soy, and corn. These foods are often difficult for the body to digest, which can lead to inflammation and other symptoms. If your child has a food intolerance, they may experience a range of symptoms, including digestive issues, skin problems, and behavioral issues. Read our article here to learn more about how artificial dyes in foods can lead to increased behavior problems for kids with ADHD and autism.

It's important to note that not all children with autism will have food intolerances, and not all food intolerances will lead to speech delay. However, if you suspect that your child may have a food intolerance, it's worth exploring further.

How to identify food intolerances in your child

Identifying food intolerances can be challenging, as the symptoms can be subtle and vary from child to child. However, there are some common signs to look out for, including digestive issues, skin problems, and behavioral issues. If you suspect that your child may have a food intolerance, you can try an elimination diet to see if their symptoms improve.

An elimination diet involves removing certain foods from your child's diet for a period of time and then gradually reintroducing them to see if there is a reaction. This can be a time-consuming and challenging process, but it can be worth it if it helps to identify a food intolerance.

A little boy eating food at an outside table

The impact of food intolerances on language development

Food intolerances can have a significant impact on language development in children with autism. If your child is struggling with speech delay, it is worth exploring whether they have any food intolerances that could be contributing to the problem.

Research has shown that children with autism who have food intolerances often experience improvements in their symptoms when the offending foods are removed from their diet. This can include improvements in speech and language development, as well as improvements in behavior and overall quality of life.

The role of nutrition in speech delay

Nutrition plays a critical role in speech delay in children with autism. In addition to removing offending foods from your child's diet, there are also a number of supplements and vitamins that may be helpful for speech delay in children with autism.


Specialized multivitamin and mineral supplements, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B6 and magnesium are just some of the nutrients frequently used with autism that may be helpful for speech delay. It's important to note that supplements should not be used as a substitute for a healthy diet, but rather as a complement to it.


By identifying food intolerances, using supplements, and focusing on a healthy diet, you can help to support your child's speech and language development. It's important to work with a healthcare professional to develop a plan that is tailored to your child's individual needs. This may include working with a nutritionist or a functional medicine practitioner to identify food intolerances and develop a healthy eating plan.

Seeking professional help for speech delay

In addition to identifying food intolerances, maintaining a healthy diet, and using nutritional supplements, there are also a number of common interventions that can be helpful for speech delay in children with autism. These include:

  • Speech therapy: Working with a speech-language pathologist can be helpful for improving speech and language skills.

  • Occupational therapy: This can help with fine motor skills, which can be important for speech and language development.

  • Behavioral therapy: This can help with social communication and other aspects of language development.


If your child is struggling with speech delay, it is important to seek professional help. This may include working with a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, or a behavioral therapist. It may also include working with a healthcare professional to identify food intolerances and develop a healthy eating plan.

By taking a holistic approach to your child's health and well-being, you can help to support their speech and language development and give them the best possible chance at success.


A smiling boy with dark hard and a blue and gray shirt

All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.


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