The Eating Game was invented in March 2007 (patents pending in Canada & USA) for Ethan who was 6 years old and is autistic. At the time he was happiest eating just hot dogs and rice! He was very excited the first day he used The Eating Game because had hot dogs and rice for breakfast! – a story I like to tell to illustrate that a key feature of The Eating Game is that the child is in control of the choices! They like that!
The user needs to have only 2 skills:(NOTE: verbal or literacy skills not needed)
• be able to make a choice
• be able to match 4 colors (blue, yellow, green and red)
There are over 200 food pictures in four different food groups and colors: (1 inch pictures, 5 mil laminated card stock with a hook & loop button)
• Milk & Alternatives* – Blue
• Grains* – Yellow
• Fruit & Vegetables – Green
• Meat & Alternatives – Red
* pictures will support alternative choices made by those on CFGF diets or any other dietary restrictions
There are planning charts for each of the age groups in Canada’s Food Guide: five are included in the book (2-3, 4-8, 9-13, females 14-18, males 14-18) but there are also 4 more that are available if needed(females 19-50 & 51+, males 19-5 & 51+). It is being used in some group homes and by folks in assisted living programs. The charts are also 5 mil laminated card stock with hook & loop buttons to accept the food pictures. There are storage pages to put the pictures on that the parent chooses to present to the child.
Initially the parent chooses the food pictures to present based on:
• foods the child can eat (special dietary considerations)
• foods the child has eaten in their lifetime
• foods available at the time
• foods the parent chooses!
Once the pictures are presented for the child’s choice, it has to be totally their choice. They must choose pictures to match the colored squares on their planning chart. Once they have done this they have chosen to eat the foods recommended by Canada’s Food Guide** for their age group. They can later be exchanged but the new choice must be the same color.
NOTE: The choice Ethan made of hot dogs & rice for breakfast only happened once, because then he realized he couldn’t have it for lunch or supper! However, he was pretty excited to be able to make that choice which also convinced him he was in control!
** There are some pictures that Canada’s Food Guide might not recommend, like chocolate cake with the “grains pics” but I felt they needed to be included. The reality is that these foods will be eaten and perhaps not all that bad a choice when made in moderation (and the parent is really in control of what is presented!) If a child who is a poor eater can start eating most of what Canada’s Food Guide recommends then maybe they deserve a treat too!The cake or other choice could also be used as a reinforcer to enhance motivation!
Ethan was eating over 200 new foods in 15 months and he still (after 29 months) uses The Eating Game although is eating almost everything! Being able to make the choices and being in control is important. This makes mealtime very predictable and the visual supports are a great communication tool! Meals are no longer a surprise – pretty significant for a lot of kids with ASD!