Does this remind you of a child you know? What might be on the plate that you had planned for them to eat? I wonder what they expected to be on the plate?
It is estimated that about 75% of those on the autism spectrum will experience eating challenges of some kind. It would seem that there is an ever increasing number of children who are not autistic who are a challenge at mealtime as well. If this is the situation in your home then you are far from alone as you try to find a solution. Maybe I can give you some “food for thought” here………………..
We must pursue every possible reason for this so as to be able to provide them with a healthy diet. All possible reasons must be assessed and addressed. If a child’s diet is still lacking in the wide variety of healthy foods that will provide the nutrients needed for optimal health perhaps the title question needs to be asked. If you are concerned about their poor nutrition then please don’t accept the response “oh this is just a phase” or “they will eat when they are hungry” or “don’t worry they will outgrow this”. Habits are not easy to break (we all know that) and in the meantime the opportunity for healthy growth is what you want for your child.
I must specifically address needs related to autism; my passion in life. We know that needs arising from the presence of autism can affect many aspects of one’s life. Most specifically we see the affects of autism in needs related to communication, social skills and behavior. Why would we not think that all of these areas come into play with food choices and the eating environment?
Of course I am not dismissing the fact that there may be other reasons that certainly need to be addressed:
- as in the general population some children do have difficulty eating and/or digesting food due to a physical impairment that needs medical attention
- a food allergy or intolerance
- sensory processing needs related to anyone of the following related to food: taste, smell, texture, temperature, color
If you are concerned about a child whose preference/need for a very reduced number of foods is limiting their ability to be well nourished, all of the above need to be dismissed or dealt with. This issue should not be ignored in favor of making sure the child id not hungry by providing their desired short list of foods on demand. The latter response is one of the concerned parent doing what they can while seeking answers. Is it certain foods or is it autism or a combination of both?
I believe that the answer to the title question is “Quite possibly autism does affect what foods are eaten for many.” We know that autism presents itself differently for each individual, Research continues to study the link between autism and gastrointestinal problems. Is autism caused by gastrointestinal problems or does the preferred diet of a child cause or exacerbate an existing problem? Many with autism find relief from this prevalent condition with diets that eliminate certain foods such as gluten and casein.
Many parents find little medical support for dietary interventions with young children and are often told not to worry it is just a phase. But parents do worry. They seek the support from other parents and advocates and through reading anything that might help. The most common result will be efforts of trial and error until something is found to be helpful.
How much easier this search to discover exactly the need and solution if their child could better communicate their discomfort with certain foods. Intervention following lengthy periods of research may well be after behaviors related to eating are well established by a child who may well dislike change; a child who likes the routines they have established with their few favored foods. The social demands of the eating environments (home, school, relatives, parties, restaurants etc) may be totally overwhelming for a child with autism who likes structure, routine and predictability!
I hope you are closer to discovering a possible cause for your child’s preference to eat the same few foods all the time. If I can be of any assistance please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org…………………. I might have a few ideas!