Feeding Issues

January 20, 2015

Many young children have feeding issues including being picky eaters and only eating certain foods prepared in certain ways.  Pediatric psychologist Jayne Bellando, Ph.D., Associate Professor Department of Pediatrics at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, states that for children with autism the feeding issues may be more severe.  It is common for parents to tell her that. . . “My child only eats white foods” or “He only eats a certain brand of chicken nuggets on a certain plate and only at home.” If this sounds like dinner at your house, read further and note the links at the bottom of our post for resources that may help your family.

Eating involves a myriad of sensory experiences including smell, texture, sight, taste and touch.  Whether your child is a picky eater or a resistant eater here are some helpful tips that may make meals less stressful.

  • Create a predictable schedule of eating.  Our bodies tend to adapt quickly to hunger cues.  This is also important when it comes to timed snacks.  Have all eating occur at the same place at the predictable time.
  • Avoid grazing – If children are allowed to eat through out the day they will not be able to regulate sensations of hunger and satiation.
  • Avoid offering dessert as a reward.
  • Include preferred food along with new food at each meal.  Offering them many many times might be necessary.  Introduce new foods through shaping procedures (taking very gradual steps toward new foods) or pairing and alternating non-preferred and preferred foods
  • Have children participate in meal planning and preparation as is developmentally appropriate. Include them in: shopping, choosing foods, preparing and cooking foods, setting the table, serving food etc.
  • Plates and silverware- Let children chose the plates and cups they use at meal times.
  • Be a model. Eat with your children. Talk about the foods and their textures, flavors, smells etc.
  • Make mealtime as non-stressful as possible.  Don’t pressure or scold.  In fact find reasons, even small ones, to celebrate!

Habro Children’s Research

Interactive Autism Network

Autism Speaks – Feeding Issues