Picky eating is a common issue in children on the autism spectrum. This could be a serious issue leading to physical health concerns, developmental issues, and deficiencies in certain nutrients. This may mean some children stick to one food group or prefer particular food brands. Other children may experience sensitivities to certain textures or temperatures and increased problem behaviors, such as leaving the table during meals. Read on to learn more about picky eating habits in children with autism.
Food selectivity is another term used to describe picky eaters. This is more commonly seen in children with developmental disabilities than children without disabilities. The reason for food selectivity is unknown but sensory issues might be one cause. Some children have aversions to specific textures, smells, temperatures, or even specific brands of foods.
Identifying Sensory Issues
Some aspects of preparing food can tell us more about picky eating and provides more information for the future. You may realize your child refuses certain foods or entire food categories. Pay close attention to which foods are left on the plate or avoided. Try to identify which sensory and texture properties of foods your child refuses, such as squishy or chewy foods. As adults, we often forget certain foods, such as produce, don’t taste the same each time we eat them. A ripe tomato may taste very different from a similar-looking tomato past its prime. This may lead to a refusal for children, often without explaining why they don’t like the food.
One way to introduce new foods to your child is to offer them choices. You can try picking two foods you think your child might like. These could be foods similar to the ones they already eat. The aim is to expand the type and variety of foods they eat. For example, if your child only eats crunchy foods, you could select a new kind of cracker or chip and ask your child which one they want to try.
Consider the Texture of the Food
Some kids are aversive to new foods because of their texture. They might be used to and prefer to eat foods of a specific texture and not like certain textures. They might not like the way food feels in their mouth. When introducing new foods to your child, consider if it could be the taste of the food or the texture your child doesn’t like. When encouraging your child to eat new foods, choose textures the same as or closely related to foods your child already eats.
Be Gentle and Patient
When getting your child to eat new food, it is important to use a gentle approach. Be patient with your child even when they resist trying new foods. It’s recommended not to use punishment to get your child to expand the variety of foods they eat. This can have the opposite effect and might make them even more restrictive regarding what they will and won’t eat.
The Connections Therapy Center
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