I was asked to help a family deal with their son’s eating challenges. They had investigated medical reasons and food allergies/intolerances and there were no concerns. They often thought it was related to sensory issues but when we listed all the foods he had eaten in his lifetime it crossed all the lines of sensory issues. He would self restrict his food choices; the list of preferred foods might switch every few weeks. He did well in a structured, routine environment where he knew what was coming next. Although he had verbal skills, it wasn’t always meaningful communication. He benefitted greatly from the use of social stories and from visual schedules/supports. These supports allowed him to be more in control in his environment, he could stay on/complete tasks and was happier doing so.
I decided that the biggest issues for him and his eating challenges were being in control of the choices and knowing ahead of time what he was going to have for his meals. Sometimes the only way for kids to know this is to self restrict their diet. They keep it to a small list of foods so they and everyone else can keep track of them. Mom and dad never run out of their preferred foods because they are concerned about how limited their diet is and probably give these preferred foods on demand for the same reason ~ which most of us would do.
So now you have a situation where the child is in control of the choices and since mom and dad don’t run out of the foods they probably think even mom and dad like their plan! When they tire of eating the same foods repeatedly they switch their preferred list.
So part of my solution would be to continue to let this little boy be in control, let him the foods he would eat for his meals but he would be given the choices, making them mostly healthy choices, starting with the foods he liked or have eaten in his lifetime then gradually adding new foods. I knew it would really help if the choices presented where in a visual format; if he saw a picture of a food he used to eat he would remember that he liked it!
My plan was very carefully thought out and executed because I wanted it to be successful and it was, for him and hundreds more. And now you know the beginning of the story. Read http://eyecancreations.blogspot.com/2011/03/very-special-visual-support-system.html to find out the rest of the story because it gets even better!