This question has been raised “How would you respond to someone who says we should not use The Eating Game as it would be spoiling the child?”
I usually begin any discussion about a child who is not eating well by investigating if it has been determined why the child does not have good eating habits. I don’t know in this case but would like to offer a response to the original question.
I cannot imagine a parent who would not be concerned that their child is not eating a healthy diet. A poor diet certainly does not ensure good health. I think we can dare to be specific and say health would include all aspects of health: physical, mental and emotional. if we are not healthy we are not in a position to achieve our personal best and I think every parent wants that for their child. A healthy diet will help us to look good, to feel good about ourselves, to be a good learner in all areas of our lives. Perhaps you can say he/she does not eat a healthy diet and they are doing okay – perhaps every child deserves better than “okay” if it is possible.
Of course there can be many reasons why a child is not eating well:
- a physical problem related to swallowing and/or digestion of food
- an allergy or food intolerance
- sensory processing disorder that involves smell, texture, temperature, perhaps even color of foods
- the need to create predictability in their environment (difficulty dealing with change & surprises)
- the need for structure and routine to enable a child to be able to manage/self regulate, to be “in control” – in the good sense!
- the need for visual supports to enable or enhance meaningful communication (understanding and expressing)
The first two issues must be investigated and solutions must be found so as to make it possible for the child to be able to eat/be well nourished safely. If sensory issues prevail then they need to be identified and can be addressed, still allowing for a healthy diet. The Eating Game was designed to support the first three issues, any special dietary requirements, as it is the parent who decides which foods will be presented to the child for their choice.
The Eating Game was definately designed to address the last 3 issues above, which are frequently concerns for a child with Autism/Aspergers. Children with ASD struggle daily to make sense of an ever changing environment and to be in control, to self regulate. We know we can help with these needs and that is what The Eating Game is all about. It is a tool/strategy that gives a child the chance to have some structure, routin and visual supports in order to create a predictable eating environment – to know ahead of time what they will be eating. I believe that is why many children self restrict their diets – so they can keep track of what the “menu” will be and know what they will be eating – no surprises or something different all the time.
What if the child has no specific issues but is just a “picky eater”. I think there is still likely an underlying issues involved here. It may just be a way the child has discovered to be in control. Many will say “this will change as they get older” maybe so but do you really want to deny a child of the opportunities provided by good health in their early years, the years of major growth and development? They will not get this time back.
Don’t be afraid to allow your child to be “in control”. The difficulty here only arises when a child does not have the guidance and perameters to make good choices. The Eating Game takes care of that for you! It gives you and your child the tools you need to direct your child to make good choices. I am sure parents will also be pleased to know that soon your child can do this healthy meal planning independently and is learning skills for a lifetime of healthy eating. It doesn’t get much better than that! The parent still has to be the provider – provide the food and the daily choices for The Eating Game.
Is it really spoiling a child to give them an Eating Game, to provide them with an opportunity to be in control of planning and eating healthy meals and snacks every day? I think not.