All kids can be picky eaters at one point or another, they want sweets over vegetables or don’t like pasta. On the other hand, parents of children on the spectrum know this is an understatement of their child’s eating habits and face daily challenges just getting their kids to eat.
Causes of Feeding Problems
There is an array of reasons a child on the spectrum won’t eat certain foods or refuses altogether. Some reasons include:
- Oral Motor Skills – A child may have a jaw weakness that may prevent them from chewing his/her food. It can prevent proper chewing and processing of food.
- Behavioral/Rigidity – Some kids with ASD have a form of OCD and get set in their ways when it comes to what they like to eat. This makes it difficult to introduce new foods or balance their diet.
- Sensory Issues – If this is the case, they may avoid foods based on the smell, color, texture or even temperature.
- Digestive Problems – If something causes stomach aches or acid reflux, a child may avoid it. By going to a gastroenterologist, parents can rule out digestive issues.
- Lack of Self-Awareness – Some kids will over-eat or under-eat. They may eat until they vomit or eat a few things and stop not realizing they are still hungry.
My Own Challenges
I have two children on the spectrum and both have different issues when it comes to eating.
Leo – He is very sensory based and rigid when it comes to his eating. He smells everything he eats, even if it’s something he has had before. He can smell things I can’t even smell and we (our pediatrician and myself) believe he may have a higher sense of smell. For example, we made pancakes the other morning for breakfast and this time we added in a hint of cinnamon. The second we put the pancakes down in front of him, he started crying saying he didn’t like them. We took the plate back and added a plain pancake under the original. He literally took the top pancake off saying he didn’t like it and began eating the plain one. Also, he gets stuck in his way of having the same thing over and over again because it’s “safe,” he knows he likes it.
Lexi – She is behavioral, rigid and lacks some self awareness. We can trick her into eating something as long as she doesn’t know. One example, she will drink the kids Danimals yogurt but won’t eat a regular Yoplait yogurt. However, if I put the regular yogurt in the Danimals container, she will eat it. Just like Leo, she gets stuck in the habit of wanting the same things over and over again. Now with her lack of self awareness, we have to make sure she doesn’t just eat chicken nuggets all day long. She could have that for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – no problems. Obviously that isn’t a great diet, so we have to tell her no and deal with a bit of a crying fit before she will accept something else.
Their diet is limited because of these issues and we try to balance it out as best we can with supplements. But the list of foods they will eat is pretty short for kids their age
- Chicken Nuggets (Only Chick-fil-A or Dino Nuggets)
- Danimals Yogurt
- Nutella Sandwich (we are working on PBJ)
- Plain noodles
- Mac n Cheese
- Apples, bananas and strawberries (so thankful for this!)
- Muffins (only chocolate)
- Cookies (only chocolate or peanut butter)
- White rice
- Chips (only plain or cheese)
- Ice cream (vanilla or chocolate)
- Cake pops (they each have a specific one)
- Goldfish/Graham Crackers
This is a Complete list of what they will eat!
A Few Helpful Tips
- Keep mealtimes calm and stress-free.
- Set a routine for mealtimes.
- Create a visual plan around mealtime.
- Teach rules about serving sizes.
- Look for signs of food intolerances.
- Look into supplements to fill in the gaps.
Well, I hope y’all enjoying reading through my own experience and tips. If this was new information, then I hope it helps you understand other that deal with this daily.
Thank you so much! Please feel free to post your comments or questions below!