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Parents raise awareness of vitamin deficiencies in children with autism after hospital error

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A new campaign has been launched to help raise awareness of dietary deficiencies in children with autism following a glaring hospital error.

It comes after 12-year-old Bella Mildon, who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), lost her sight after routine blood tests failed to pick up a vitamin A deficiency.

It is well documented that people on the autism spectrum experience eating challenges (such as food selectivity) leading to deficiencies in key nutrients.

For example, a study published in 2013 found that children with ASD suffer from dietary disorders at a rate five times the general population. Separate research also found that, despite 56 per cent of children with autism taking food supplements, the majority still present with deficits in vitamin D, calcium, potassium, pantothenic acid, and choline.

But for Bella, her food deficiency was discovered far too late.

“We knew something was going on so we went in on the Saturday. We then went in again on the Monday and again on the Wednesday and Thursday, and not one blood test was done in that time,” said her mother Sam Mildon, after Bella started unknowingly knocking into objects.

Bella collapsed the following week and was taken into hospital where she spent four days in intensive care.

“When she woke up her eyes weren’t working properly and they told us that she had probably lost her vision. We finally brought her home but we brought a different Bella home, one that can’t see,” Mrs Mildon said.

Bella is just one of five children to have lost her sight due to vitamin A deficiency in the last five years.

Launching the campaign, Mrs Mild called for comprehensive testing to be made available for all autistic children who suffer from dietary restrictions to avoid long-lasting health problems.

Commenting on the case, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which advises on public health policy, said it is reviewing its guidance about handling nutritional deficits among autistic children.

“We are currently consulting clinical experts during a review into our guideline on the support and management of under 19s with autism spectrum disorders,” said Paul Chrisp, director of NICE.

“We have asked these experts about the issue of nutritional deficiency and restricted diets as part of this review and expect to share more information in the coming months once our initial consultation is completed.”

According to the latest statistics, autism affects around one in every 100 people, meaning there are around 700,000 individuals on the autism spectrum in the UK.