Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Coping with Fussy Eaters

For a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder it can be hard to explain why certain foods are ok and others are not. Because their extreme sensitivities go far beyond the difference in flavour between foods, texture can be extremely important and food temperature can also make a difference to how well any food is received.

The taste buds on our tongues tell us if a food is sweet, sour, bitter or salty. You mgiht find that your child will eat only one of these 'tastes' or will avoid one. This is when you need your lateral thinking to kick in.

It’s important that you meet your child’s nutritional and physical needs while being understanding and tolerant of their heightened sensitivity. Always be encouraging, but never force your child or get angry with them, no matter how frustrated you may feel.

Don’t offer too many choices at a time, one or two options on their plate at a time is usually enough.

If they have a preference for sweet foods try adding a sweet topping or marinade to your food. A touch of honey does wonders. Similarly, if they prefer something more salty try a sauce on the food you are giving your child. As long as they eat a variety of foods it doesn't really matter how they eat it, does it?

Try each flavour in different textures and at different temperatures. Record your child’s reactions and reception of the different foods that you offer.

It’s very handy to be able to look back over a comprehensive food diary, not only to work out patterns of what they like to eat, but so a dietician can help you to keep track of how much they are actually eating and where there may be gaps in their overall nutrition.

Introduce new foods gradually, always offering a food that they are comfortable with alongside new food sensations.

Many parents learn to hide nutritious foods in well tolerated foods, by perhaps peeling and grating or mashing and mixing through their favourite foods.

Every child is different and a fussy eater is a fussy eater whether or not the child has ASD. Don't worry too much about what they eat as long as they do!

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