If you’re a parent of a child with autism, you know full well the challenge mealtime can present. If you’re feeling alone with this challenge, research will suggest otherwise. Studies show children with autism are about five times for likely to have trouble at meals than others.
These challenges often boil down to a child’s pickiness or obsessive food habits. Other issues with food can stem from unknown food allergies or sensitivities. These challenges can prove to have detrimental outcomes to a child’s nutrition as pickiness or unknown sensitivities can prevent eating foods that are necessary to a healthy diet.
Parents often find that nutrition is one of the keys to helping their child with autism function healthily and ultimately thrive, so making mealtime work is an important step.
A helpful first step in this process is ruling out medical issues caused by certain foods. If your child has an aversion to a certain food after they have tried it before, this is a good indicator that they have experienced some sort of discomfort from it. Try consulting a doctor about possible gastrointestinal issues or allergies.
A limited diet means a lower chance your child is missing certain nutrients from their diet, so introducing them to new foods is worth the challenge. Try having them play with new foods in creative ways of introducing the food with foods they already love. This helps to reduce the anxiety that may result from being introduced to a new food.
It is also important to be aware of textures of a food they may not like. If you tried a certain food in one form that they didn’t like, try mixing up how it is prepared to change the texture. For example, if you have tried feeding your child avocado and they haven’t like it, try presenting it to them in the form of guacamole next time.
As with other aspects of raising a child with ASD, remember to include them in the process and offer them choices. This will both make it more likely for them to receive the nutrients they may be missing, as well as helping them try new things.
Above all, practice patience. If your child hasn’t warmed up to a certain food, it may simply be a matter of time before they finally come to enjoy it. You also may find that your child simply doesn’t like some foods and that’s okay. Just keep giving them options and keep exploring nutrition with your kids.