Children with autism often have food aversions and sensitivities. Behavioral issues complicate this problem and can make meal-time challenging. There is also a serious nutritional concern if the child is not taking in enough calories, vitamins, or minerals. This article will discuss some of the strategies we use at Verbal Beginnings to help kids and their caregivers increase food intake for a child with autism picky eater.
When you’re trying to get a picky eater to try a new food, you must introduce one food at a time, repetitively. Be sure to have food on their plate that they are likely to eat, along with the new food. Other family members can try the food from their plate, and say how yummy it is. Some experts suggest introducing the food 10-20 times before going on to the next food. Repetition is key.
The goal with rewards is to start out slow and build positive reinforcement. Find a reward that will motivate them. Only use this reward for eating and make sure it is something that they really want and/or enjoy. For example, if they agree to try two bites of a new food = 30 minutes playing a favorite game, etc.
Turn That Texture Around
Sometimes, it’s not the taste that is unpleasant to the picky eater, but rather the texture. So, think about alternative ways to serve the desired food. A tomato, fresh from the garden, may be distasteful but more tolerable when chopped up and put on a tortilla chip. Your child may not like the texture of applesauce but an apple slice dipped in peanut butter could be a welcome snack!
Snacks vs. Meals
When a child misses a meal or refuses to eat, it is often very tempting to try to sneak in a snack to fill the void. But, this process may encourage missed meal behaviors. So, be sure to serve snacks on a regular schedule and keep the portion size and the snack menu selections consistent and appropriate for ‘snacking.’ In this way, it doesn’t matter what your child did or didn’t eat at the last meal; they will begin to understand that the next appropriate time to eat is snack time. This also avoids the non-structured habit of constant grab and go snacking.
Helping your child with autism picky eater can be a challenging process for the whole family, but it can also be rewarding to see progress. If you or your family need help with a picky eater, contact the feeding therapy experts at Verbal Beginnings today by calling 855.866.9893!