Managing Eating Problems For Children With Autism

[Guest Post]

A picky eater is one of the greatest worries parents have. The food that they eat can be narrowed to a limited assortment. Some children only eat savory food while others, only sweet food. There are also others who merely eat soft food like mashed potatoes and vegetables. Picky eating in the long run is dire, as it will not only result in nutrients deficiency needed for growing and brain development, but also affects the development of oral motor skills. When we chew, lick and bite, the muscles activated around our mouth and jaw are the same ones needed for speech development. Thus speech development too, might be compromised for picky eaters. According to research, children with autism have high prevalence of picking eating. This could be due to sensory sensitivity, medical problems like gastrointestinal distress and digestion issues like constipation. With all due reason, what could our solutions be? Here are eight key factors to help.

1. Check with a medical doctor or a professional

Issues like digestive problems could be the reason why your child is selective to the food he or she chooses. Always consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and start on proper treatments if it is a medical condition. 

2. Rule out sensory issues

As mentioned earlier, eating could be affected by sensory sensitivity. When a child has oral over-responsiveness, he or she will experience discomfort when eating food of varied texture. Always consult an occupational therapist or medical professional.

3. One-bite rule

Patience, patience and more patience! Parents should keep in mind that their intention is to expose their child to a variety of food and have them try new food in the long run. If the child refuses to try, insists that he or she can just take a bite and it is ok if they do not like it. At least they tried. 

4. One step at a time

Some children are not adventurous when it comes to trying out new things. This is no exception for children with autism. Help your child explore new food by letting him or her look at it, feel the texture of it and smell it. Do it slowly. This process can take up to a few days but it is all about encouraging your child to take the first step. When your child is ready, he or she can try giving it a lick or trying a small bite. 

5. Be creative!

Instead of presenting your child’s food in the same, usual manner, try to get creative and present it in fun and creative styles. Depending on your child’s interest, parents can use different types of food and fruits to present food in a whole different manner. 

6. Get involved

One of the best tricks to encourage good eating would be to involve your child in the cooking process.  Have them join you for grocery shopping and use that opportunity to educate them the types of healthy and unhealthy food. When you are home, be sure to select skills appropriate tasks and allow them to help you in the preparation process. Kids who help prepare food are generally more willing to try what they made.

7. Power of control

Avoid using words like “must eat”, “eat this” and other similar authoritative words. Such phrases make the child feel that they have no control over what they put into their mouth and make them feel defenseless too. They are more likely to kick a fuss than to obey your instructions in generally. Go with words like “try this”, “just a tiny bite”, phrases that are less compelling. Also, parents may try providing options for the child. For example, if they wish to have them eat vegetables, present 2-3 types of vegetables of similar texture and taste and allow the child to choose. This gives him or her a choice and makes them feel that they have control over what they eat. 

8. Be a role model

Last but not least, be a good role model yourself. This may sound pretty obvious but it is also one of the most neglected factors. Parents often forget that their child looks up to them and follow basically whatever they do. If they see their mom and dad picking out vegetables and whats not, how can we expect them to try those food? Be aware of your eating etiquettes before your child to encourage good eating habits!

This blog post is brought to you by Ling, the co-founder of Staccatopop

Staccatopop is the first center in Singapore to practise naturalistic learning for special needs children. The team comprises of experienced behavior therapist, speech educator and experienced art educator.

Children with autism often have difficulties successfully applying newly attained skills to novel situations. Naturalistic teaching are thus introduced to solve this problem using the key method of generalization. Staccatopop values the importance of naturalistic learning where teachings are conducted through music and art, and learning is fun and fulfilling. The company also recognises the lack of social skills in most special needs individuals, hence the key objective is to equip these children with the appropriate skills to cope with challenges they face socially. Every session, mainstream children will be invited to join the class where the autistic students will get the opportunity to learn & interact alongside, making learning as natural and less invasive as possible.

To find out more about Staccatopop, please visit their Facebook Page:


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