Eating problems are quite common in children with autism. When your child has trouble eating, meal times can be extremely challenging. As a parent, you want your child to try new foods and have a varied diet. Your child may refuse new foods, avoid certain textures, or have trouble. This can make any meal a very stressful situation for both you and your child. There are things that you can do to help.
Create a Routine
Create a meal time routine. If your child gets anxious as meal time approaches, take a few minutes to help them relax before sitting down. This might involve something such as taking some deep breaths together. Then, when you sit down to your meal, have your child sit at the same place. A routine, as well as a schedule, can help to make things more predictable for your child.
Eating together is important for your child. Doing so can help him or her to learn what is supposed to happen during meal times. As your child watches everyone else eat, they may be more likely to follow suit. There’s also a greater chance that they’ll try new foods if they see you and other family members eating it too.
Make Sure Your Child is Supported Properly
It’s important that your child is properly supported during meal times. If your child isn’t seated properly, they may get uncomfortable or start to wriggle. This can lead to distractions. In addition to supporting their back posture, provide something for their feet if they cannot touch the ground. Good support will enable your child to more easily focus on the food in front of them.
Introduce New Foods Gradually
Children with autism are often afraid of new foods. Instead of simply presenting a new food, introduce it gradually. Start by looking at it. Then hold it. Move to smelling it. Then you can move to just a small taste, even a lick. You can present new foods alongside foods you already know that your child likes.
Another option is to cut their food into fun shapes using cookie cutters or making funny faces with it. If your child is interested, let them help. Getting involved may pique their interest.
While meal times can be stressful and even frustrating, it’s important to remain calm. Speech and OT is here to help. We have three office locations in Plano, Frisco, and McKinney. If you live in North Texas, give us a call today!