I enjoy posing questions for parents to ponder and provide personal responses – usually a wonderful source of information and support. It also provides me with some challenges that I love to tackle. And so it was the other day when I posted this question on my facebook Eating Game Page https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Eating-Game/117743845389
“Do you have a child with ASD who restricts their diet to a short list of preferred foods? Have you been able to figure out why they do this?”
This was a question I knew many, maybe most parents of children on the autism spectrum would be able to respond to somehow. I did get some great responses and will enjoy helping those who might be looking for solutions.
In being totally honest I would have to say I may well recommend The Eating Game as a solution but that is certainly not my intent. I realize what an ongoing challenge it is for so many parents to provide a healthy diet for their child. Sometimes you are left so battle scarred that you have to give in to be sure your child is eating something. I get that. I would not recommend The Eating Game if I didn’t feel it would meet a child’s needs.
When a friend asked me over 5 years ago to help her find a solution for her son who has autism I knew I would enjoy the challenge. She asked because she knew I had an educational background in nutrition, experience working with many children on the spectrum for over 20 years and a passion for being their advocate.
Before I even started to find the solution we needed to answer some questions. We needed to identify or rule out:
1) Any physical impediment that would make him refuse certain foods
2) Any food allergies or intolerances
3) Any sensory issues relating to food choices
We were able to answer “no” to the first 2 concerns but the third one seemed like a possibility.
He had a very restricted number of foods he would eat. Try as they might, he would refuse to eat at all or have a meltdown that did not usually result in food being eaten or he might even eat some, choke and vomit. So we set about to create a list of all the foods he had eaten in his lifetime (7 years) even though he may be refusing them now.
A lot of observation took place during which time I observed, not surprisingly, that mealtime was also a very socially challenging time with all that happens around a family meal table. I know some children that could only eat if away from the family table.
When the list of foods was completed and we studied it looking for sensory issues we concluded that by times he may have excluded some textures from his favored list of foods (which did change after a length of time). However, overall the impression was that the list of foods did not lead us to believe sensory issues were at play when he self restricted his food choices. So now we had more questions to look at in order to find a solution. It made sense then to look at how “autism” figured into this looking at other areas of his day to day life. A series of questions were developed that we set out to answer. If you would like to have those questions I would be more than willing to share them, just ask.
The answers led me to create something I was pretty sure would be a success for her son. Mind you it didn’t hurt that he was involved, knew I was making something just for him and even let him name it! He named it The Canada Food Guide Game. I questioned whether we should call it a game and he said, “Oh yes, I think so because it is fun!” So I agreed and saw GAME as an acronym for Get Awesome Meals Everyday. I was a good thing!
One question may well lead to many more as you search for a solution to your child’s eating issues. I believe there will be answers and that you owe it to yourself and your child to pursue those answers. I would like to share the questions I used with you and perhaps it will help you find a solution.
It came to be called The Eating Game. I realized I had created something that could possibly make a difference in the lives of many children and their families. It has indeed done that and I hope will continue to do so. The little boy who was the inspiration for my invention (soon to have a patent I hope) was eating over 200 new foods in 15 months. He continued to use The Eating Game because he liked that he was in control of the food choices for all his meals and snacks. He also liked that this daily routine made mealtime very predictable – no surprises! Soon he was planning the basics of the family meal and he liked that as well! Now with food not being an issue he was freer to participate in the social aspects of mealtime. He was a winner everyday using The Eating Game. There is a good chance that your child can improve their eating habits using The Eating Game.