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The daily practice of school lunch for pupils with ADHD and / or autism spectrum disorders

PhD project The intention behind a school meal is to provide food and nutrition so pupils have the energy to learn. Pupils with ADHD and/or autism spectrum disorders can find mealtimes difficult due to the environment or the food. The purpose of this research project is to increase knowledge of school lunches for pupils with ADHD and/or autism spectrum disorders. The results may form basis for guidelines for the specific group and further enhance the opportunities for an inclusive school restaurant.

The purpose of this research project is to increase knowledge of school lunches for pupils with ADHD and/or autism spectrum disorders. These pupils may experience eating difficulties and be sensitive to impressions from their surroundings. Studies in this field can contribute to future guidelines and better recommendations on how to adapt school restaurants and meals. This could result in a more comfortable situation for the pupil with better opportunities for learning, and from a larger perspective increase the prospects of a more accessible and inclusive school restaurant for all pupils.

Head of project

Cecilia Olsson
Associate professor
E-mail
Email

Project overview

Project period:

2020-09-01 2025-08-30

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Food, Nutrition and Culinary Science

Research area

Food and nutrition

Project description

School lunches are an important part of the Swedish school system aiming to provide all children with the same opportunities to learn at school. School lunches are to provide the energy needed to focus and learn, and it is simultaneously a part of the education.

The atmosphere and environment surrounding the school lunch can be a challenge to pupils with ADHD or autism spectrum disorders. A loud, noisy and unstructured environment is common in school restaurants. This can lead to discomfort and have a negative impact on children with autism and ADHD since sound sensitivity and difficulties to concentrate are common.

Beside the environment of the meal, there are also other factors playing a negative part in the eating experience for children with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. A high percentage of children with an autism spectrum disorder experience some form of eating difficulty. This could be caused by motor skills, relate to posture when seated or chewing ability, or be due to selectivity regarding foods. For pupils with ADHD, medicines can also cause a loss of appetite.

Accessibility to the school restaurant and the right to satisfy your appetite during the school lunch should go without saying. Research has shown that food and meals for children with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders can cause difficulties. But how this relates to school meals in particular has not yet been explored.

The purpose of this project is to increase knowledge of school lunches in daily practice for pupils with ADHD and/or autism spectrum disorders in primary and lower-secondary school. This is achieved by interviewing and observing pupils and adults accompanying the pupil in and around the school restaurant.

Studies in this field could contribute to future guidelines and better recommendations on how to adapt the environment of the school restaurant and meals served. This could result in a more secure situation for the individual pupil with better opportunities for learning at school. And, from a larger perspective, increase the prospects of a more accessible and inclusive school restaurant for all pupils.

This is a doctoral student project in cooperation with the Department of Food, Nutrition and Culinary Science and the Umeå School of Education. The project is conducted within the Postgraduate School in the Educational Sciences.

Learn more

The Postgraduate School in the Educational Sciences