Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Food Science (MS)

Degree Level



Food Science


Han-Seok Seo

Committee Member

Suzanne Kucharczyk

Second Committee Member

Navam Hettiarachchy


Autistic adults, Autism spectrum disorder, Eating behavior, Emotion, Sensitivity, Sensory perception


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that causes social, communication, behavioral and sensory challenges. The prevalence has been on a rise, with the latest reports stating 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with ASD. These challenges play a significant role in feeding behavior, leading to reduced nutrition among individuals. Much research in this field has been attributed to children, however, this study was focused on the adult population, in an attempt to improve their quality of life. Building on previous findings and knowledge gaps, the objectives of this thesis were two-fold: To better understand the sensory experiences of adults with ASD and their responses toward food and beverages and 2) to determine whether ASD influences sensory and emotional responses to smell and taste stimuli. Participants with ASD reported abnormal and non-uniform sensory experiences, which combined with environmental factors, influenced their food choices and eating behavior. Odor identification and odor discrimination ability were reduced in adults with autism, as compared to their control counterparts. Additionally, the taste identification ability of adults with autism was also reduced. The perception of odors, in terms of arousal and intensity also differs among the two groups. Increased sensitivity to sweet taste and decreased liking of sour taste was observed. It seemed that both odors and tastes with a sour quality were perceived as more intense by the test group. Moreover, the emotions evoked by taste solutions differed among the two groups, people with ASD reported a lesser number of emotion attributes evoked by tastes and a higher number of negative emotions for sweet and sour tastes. In conclusion, ASD affects the olfactory and taste abilities of people. Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder, Sensory perception, Emotion, Eating behavior, Sensitivity.