Parent Tips for Mealtime Success

Children with autism spectrum disorder often have difficulty accepting a variety of tastes, textures and temperatures of foods. There is an extremely high prevalence of feeding problems in children with autism.⁣

Children with ASD likely face difficulty eating in overstimulating environments (school, restaurants). Chances are they are also very selective at home. ⁣

You may be nodding your head if your child:⁣

✔️Only eats specific brands⁣

✔️Specific colors of food ⁣

✔️Certain shapes of food⁣

Some strategies parents can use at home for steady progress with feeding include:⁣

✔️Have meals at the table. Mealtime stress can equate to wandering through the house or sitting in front of an IPad or TV while our kids eat. Sitting at the table for meals creates a routine and a hunger pattern, so children feel hungry when it’s time to eat. If your child experiences difficulty staying at the table for mealtimes, start by teaching them to stay at a table for other activities, keeping the time short and doing an activity of their choice. ⁣

✔️Build familiarity with foods. If you have a child who will only eat certain brands, or a specific color on their plate start by building familiarity around new tastes. This helps the child feel comfortable with new packaging or unfamiliar visual aspects of food (for example, a chicken strip vs a chicken nugget) before approaching other sensory properties of new foods. New and unfamiliar experiences raise anxiety with children with ASD. So take it slow and give them time to adjust to new food items. Even if it is a new shape!⁣

✔️Encouragement from parents to expose your child to new foods, explore different kinds of foods and food textures, and expand the variety of foods your child eats allows them to continue to build familiarity with a variety of nutritious foods.⁣

Take a deep breath and try to not get overwhelmed. Small steps lead to success. Remember the smallest victories are just as important. Start with one thing and celebrate your child SUCCESS! No matter how big or small!

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