Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Food Science (PhD)

Degree Level



Food Science


Han-Seok Seo

Committee Member

Navam Hettiarachchy

Second Committee Member

Erich Leitner

Third Committee Member

Khoa Luu

Fourth Committee Member

Andy Mauromoustakos

Fifth Committee Member

Suzanne Kucharczyk


autism, sensory, emotion, perception, stimuli, ASD, Food Science


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that causes significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges and it is often involved in sensory processing issues that lead to feeding problems. While our understanding of how sensory responses differ in people with ASD is limited, past studies indicated atypical responses to certain stimuli. If these stimuli can be identified, they could be good indicators to identify the risk of autism in young children. The main objective of this dissertation was to identify a specific stimulus leading autistic children to exhibit atypical responses in terms of sensory or emotional aspects. Children between the ages of 5 and 14 years were recruited to participate in studies where they were presented with taste, odor, visual, auditory, texture, bimodal, and multimodal stimuli. They rated each stimulus for liking, intensity, familiarity, and want to try again on 9-point scales, and their emotional responses toward each stimulus were measured by explicit (self-reported emojis) and implicit (facial expressions) methods. Results showed that differences exist in the sensory and emotional responses of children with autism, as compared to neurotypical children, especially for caffeine solution, vanilla odorant, crunchy cereal, hot sauce, and 100 Hz pure tones. The methodology used to collect subjective and emotional responses were also validated. Therefore, these five stimuli could be considered as candidates for aiding in the existing diagnostic procedure for monitoring autistic children. Furthermore, this study provided novel information about the emotional reactions of ASD children to sensory stimuli, as measured by explicit and implicit methods.

Available for download on Saturday, August 30, 2025

Included in

Food Science Commons