Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder may be limited to habitual or restrictive eating patterns. As a result, children may be consuming insufficient amounts of nutrients or an excess amount. This makes it difficult and stressful for families to provide the appropriate types and amounts of nutrients necessary to maintain healthy limits. It is therefore important that there is collaboration among the child and his/her parents/caregivers, therapist, and dietician to ensure that the child is consuming nutritious food tailored for that individual.
Due to the specific, limited and restrictive eating patterns, this process can be stressful for families. Below are some tips that may be helpful for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families:
· Place the new or unfamiliar food on a table where eating meals occurs while the child is present. This first step exposes the child to the new food so that they start to get used to the way it looks and smells.
· Provide small amounts of repeated text exposure to small amounts of the unfamiliar food. It can even be helpful for your child to play with their food!
· Remember to keep in mind that every child is different, and therefore every child will respond differently to the unfamiliar food in the beginning, and you may have to begin with smaller steps. For example, it may take multiple exposures to the food just being on the table before the child can actually smell it or taste it.
· Try to be patient and stay calm! This process is especially stressful for parents, so it is important to seek supports whenever necessary for your own self-care.
If you are a parent or caregiver of a child with Autism, there are many resources available to assist in the process of support and problem-solving for you and your child, including professional counseling. Call (215) 487-1330 or email us at Greenridge@intercommunityaction.org for more information about our counseling services, which include one-on-one therapy with a trained clinician.