Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP


Aggression is a common behavioral issue in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Aggression is often treated with evidence-based behavioral treatments, such as applied behavioral analysis and functional communication training. Another form of intervention that has grown in popularity is to alter the child’s diet. The most popular dietary intervention, the autism diet, has been used as a form of behavior management by parents and guardians for children diagnosed with ASD to address aggressive behavior; however, its use has not been strongly supported by research. The authors proposed that a more beneficial way of understanding aggression in ASD is to understand aggression through the lens of the frustration-aggression hypothesis. According to the frustrationaggression hypothesis, aggressive acts can stem from aggression-activating affect caused by such factors as physical pain, irritation, and psychological discomfort. It is proposed that children with ASD turn to aggressive behavior when experiencing these irritants as a result of the communicative challenges they face as a part of ASD. This study examined the use of the autism diet, sleep disturbance, and communicative ability as predictors of aggression in children diagnosed with ASD. Use of the diet and lower communicative ability were significantly and positively correlated with aggressive episodes, while sleep disturbance was not. These findings did not find support for use of the autism diet in reducing aggression; however, they should be interpreted with caution because of the retrospective nature of the data.