Are you a parent of a child with autism who struggles with eating new foods? You are not alone. Many children on the autism spectrum have sensory sensitivities that can make mealtime a challenging experience. As parents, it can be frustrating and worrisome to see our children limit their food choices, especially when we want them to have a balanced and healthy diet. However, with the right approach and a little bit of patience, we can empower our children to become food explorers instead of picky eaters.
My World ABA discusses practical tips and strategies to encourage your autistic child to try new foods and ensure they are getting the proper nutrition for their age.
Understanding Sensory Sensitivities and Eating Habits in Children With Autism
Children with autism often have sensory sensitivities that impact their eating habits. The taste, texture, smell, or even color of food can trigger these sensitivities, making mealtime an uphill battle. Some children may find certain tastes too strong, textures too rough, or smells too potent.
Foods with mixed textures or strong flavors, such as a sandwich with multiple fillings or a dish with an array of spices, can often be challenging for children with autism. Even the visual presentation of food can affect their willingness to eat. For example, they may avoid foods that are certain colors or have an unusual appearance.
Understanding these sensory sensitivities is the first step in helping your child broaden their dietary horizons. Remember, it’s not about forcing your child to eat foods they dislike but about gently expanding their food comfort zone.
Building a Positive Relationship with Food
Creating a positive and stress-free environment during mealtimes is essential to helping your child become more receptive to new foods.
Eat As a Family
Make meals a family affair, where everyone sits down together and enjoys the same food. This encourages your child to try what others are eating. If they see you relishing your food, they are likely to follow suit.
Use Positive Language
Make sure to use positive and encouraging language about food and avoid labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Instead, discuss the benefits of different foods and how they keep our bodies healthy and strong.
Let Them Be Involved
Let your child have some control over their food choices within healthy limits. Allow them to help prepare meals. This involvement gives them a sense of accomplishment and makes them more likely to eat the food they’ve helped create.
Keep It Fun
Remember to keep the atmosphere light and fun. A relaxed environment helps reduce mealtime stress and makes the process of trying new foods more enjoyable for your child.
Introducing New Foods Gradually and Creatively
Introducing new foods to your child with autism should be a slow and steady process.
1.) One Food at a Time
Start by introducing one new food at a time, and pair it with something your child already enjoys. This can make the new food seem less daunting. Also, keep portions of the new food small so it doesn’t seem overwhelming.
2.) Be Patient
It may take multiple exposures before your child is ready to try the new food, and that’s okay. Patience is key here. Pushing too hard can just end up causing a negative experience.
3.) Get Creative
Being creative with how you present food can also help. Turn mealtime into a fun, interactive experience. Use cookie cutters to make interesting shapes out of fruits, vegetables, or sandwiches. Arrange food in a fun pattern on the plate, or let your child build their own ‘food art.’
Remember, the goal is to make trying new foods a positive experience for your child.
ABA Therapy in Springfield and Joplin
My World ABA provides ABA therapy in Joplin and Springfield, MO. Our approach is based on kindness and understanding, and we strive to create a fun and inclusive environment where your child will feel welcome.
To learn more about our services or answer additional questions, visit our website or call (417) 818-5784 today.