Children with autism are picky eaters and no one really knows why. Maybe it has something to do with their tendency to select down and eliminate one food from their diet at a time. The reason may also be sensory, such as a new discomfort with a particular smell, taste or feel, or even a randomly developed routine.
If your autistic child is a picky eater, here are some tips to help him eat better:
- Choose foods similar to what your child already likes
While helping a picky eater build his food selection, keep nutrition aside and help him build a fondness for eating. Start with a food that’s similar to those your child already eats. It may be something with a similar flavor (like trying fresh strawberries, if your child likes strawberry ice cream). If you’re concerned about nutrition, try giving multivitamins to your child while you’re encouraging his eating habits.
- Take baby steps while introducing new foods
Instead of suddenly introducing new food, ensure you ease your child into it. Allow your child to be successful by taking small measures. As a first step, simply place the new food items in your child’s plate. It’s ok if he doesn’t want to eat it right away. If your child is ok and accepts the food, reward him with something that motivates him to try again.
- Go slow with the next steps
Once your child is ok with new food on his plate, it’s time to move on to the next small steps. You can try all or some of these to help encourage your child in:
- Touching the food
- Smelling the food
- Bringing the food to lips
- Touching the food with tongue
- Taking a taste of the food
- Continuing to taste the food every day, for two weeks
If your child doesn’t take to the food, even after tasting it every day for two weeks, you might just have to deal with the fact that this is not going to be a preferred food item.
- Avoid Power Struggles
You may get frustrated with your autistic child who simply won’t try anything new. However, it is important to avoid a power struggle with your child. The easiest way to do so is to set the bar low so that your child will almost always succeed. The journey may take a while but if it ensures your child’s success at eating right, then it’s worth the effort.
Remember, it is important to get your autistic child to enjoy the process of eating. Taking it one step at a time can make life easier for both you and your little one, and lead to more success at the dining table.