Picky eating is a widespread issue faced by children and their parents quite commonly. This issue, however, is quite complex in children on the ASD spectrum and other sensory issues.
Research suggests that children with autism are five times more likely to face mealtime challenges. These challenges may be related to food selectivity, meal-related tantrums, sensory issues with food, etc.
Kids with developmental disorders or other sensory issues often have rigid routines and prefer foods of particular temperatures, textures, colors or sometimes, even shapes. Dealing with these issues, while simultaneously making sure that the child is consuming a healthy range of foods, often becomes challenging for parents.
Let’s take a look at some strategies you could try to combat picky eating in your child –
Be mindful of textures
The issue of hypersensitivity with kids on the spectrum is quite common. An aversion to foods of certain textures can in result the child refusing to eat that food. This aversion could be towards slimy, runny, brittle or any other types of textures. For example – If your child refuses to eat apples because of their crunchiness, try a healthy alternative of an apple milkshake.
Offer them control
If you have a particular food that you want your child to start eating, try presenting that food with another equally healthy option and allow your child to choose between the two. This will give them a sense of control which will lead to the development of more adventurous eating behaviors. Allowing your child to accompany you to the supermarket to shop for the ingredients of their meal or having them assist with the cooking, will also make them feel responsible, making them more likely to consume the meal.
Praise and reward –
Verbally expressing your appreciation towards your child for trying a new food is very important. Create a reward system or a visual chart which will be easy for the child to understand. Follow the chart to keep track of the rewards your child has earned for their positive eating behaviors. This visual chart will act as a source of encouragement to the child, further motivating them towards trying out new foods.
To make mealtime as stress-free as possible, it is important to make sure that the environment is as noise free and calm as possible. Try and stick to a particular routine that your child prefers, this could consist of a particular spot at the dinner table, specific cutlery etc. Try to be consistent with the timing of the meals every day.
When trying to introduce a new food into your child’s diet, make sure to do so unhurriedly. Trying new things is often a challenge for children with developmental disorders, and this is no different with trying new foods. Initially, let your child touch, smell, or simply look at the new food. Giving children the time and patience to try the new food will prove to be of much importance in the long run as they’ll be more likely to eat the food in the future on their own.
Have you tried any of the above strategies with your child before? Let us know in the comment section below!
Don’t forget to mention any other tips or strategies that have worked for your child!