Children with autism frequently (perhaps up to 75%) have difficulties related to eating.
Given that there may be medical as well as behavioral reasons to explain your child’s eating habits, it is recommended that you have a professional complete a feeding assessment to identify any medical or oral-motor concerns. You should also consider having a dietary assessment completed to identify the eating challenges being faced. You should include a list of foods that have been eaten, preferred foods and foods consistently refused. Don’t forget to look for patterns that might also indicate sensory issues. Ultimately the goal is to develop a strategy that will create the best possible eating plan for your child.
Having worked with many children with autism who had eating issues, it was clear there had to be a solution to this challenge. The result is The Eating GameTM, and its success is rooted in understanding that children with autism:
- Generally prefer a predictable environment, where they know what to expect, allowing for more control.
- Mealtimes are often a surprise, both in terms of the food being served and the social milieu.
- Often eat a few select foods at a time
- Have parents who always have these select foods on hand so they can ensure their child is eating something.
- Retain control of their eating experience by making their own food choices.
- Tend to respond positively to a more structured, routine environment.
- Often respond positively to the use of visual support systems.
To better ensure success for changing eating behaviors, as with supporting any behavioral change, it is going to be very much dependent on your consistent and persistent efforts. You may also want to make adaptations to include strategies and reinforcers that you know support success.