It’s common for young children to be picky eaters, but if you have a child with autism, you may experience picky eating on another level. Many children with autism stick with chicken nuggets, bread, or pasta without sauce. As a parent or caregiver of a child with autism, you may need a few pointers on how to support your child appropriately. Whether your child refuses to eat red-colored foods or doesn’t like certain textures, here’s how to help your child with autism overcome picky eating.
It’s important to know that children with autism are more likely to face stomach issues, so if your child is avoiding certain foods, it could be for a legit reason. However, your child may have problems communicating this with you. Your child’s doctor may be able to help pinpoint which foods may cause stomach pain or an allergy flare.
Dinnertime can be hard for children with autism, so having quiet or “chillax” time before dinner is essential. The best way to help your child with autism overcome picky eating is by calming their mind first and getting them relaxed before facing them with the task of trying something new. Their day was full of stressors, from school to homework to therapy, so giving your child time to unwind will help make the process easier.
Helping your child with autism overcome picky eating takes trial, error, and time. You shouldn’t expect your child to jump into a plate of brussels sprouts immediately without taking the time to introduce this food to them. Instead, it would be best if you offered your child options with unfamiliar foods and foods they already like.
For example, give your child a small serving of broccoli or carrots along with their chicken tenders. Even if they don’t eat it the first time, keep offering it to them. The idea is that they will get used to the undesired food on the plate and eventually try it out without a fuss.
Dinnertime struggles are no fun, especially when you want to sit down and enjoy your food. However, you should always remember to be patient and take baby steps. When working with your child, tell them to touch the food or sniff it first to familiarize themself with it. Even if they don’t like it initially, keep offering it to them with a small taste to see if your child will open up and fully try it. Being patient and taking baby steps will hopefully lead you all toward easier dinner nights.
Your child’s picky eating may boil down to hypersensitivity to textures, not taste. Trying different ways to implement the undesired foods into a meal may take experimenting and time. For example, squash may be too squishy, so why not blend it into the sauce?
It would be best if you allowed your child to play with their food to help build familiarity. Experiment together by blending different foods or using vegetables to make funny faces or fun shapes. While playing with the food, encourage your child to taste it—but remember not to push too hard.
Having a child that’s a picky eater can be challenging. Hope these tips help your child with Autism overcome picky eating.