Some individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may be fussy eaters. If your child is losing weight, shows signs of poor health, only eats a few different foods or if mealtime behaviors are causing stress for both you and your child then it may be beneficial to try implementing some behavioural strategies during mealtime routines.
Why are healthy eating habits important?
If your child has language delays, is resistant to change or has sensory processing issues then these could be impeding his or her ability to participate in a successful mealtime routine. Your child may be unable to communicate their preferences or when they are feeling full. They may find certain textures, flavours and smells overwhelming or may not find food appealing or tasty.
Transitioning to mealtime may be a struggle or there may be a reluctance to try new foods. Oral-motor delays could also interfere with chewing and swallowing. Individuals with ASD are at greater risk of developing gastro-intestinal issues which can make the experience of eating aversive. If you suspect your child has an oral motor delay, gastro-intestinal issues or allergies, it is important to seek medical advice to rule out any medical issues that can interfere with feeding. Building a better mealtime routine and expanding food varieties will increase social inclusion for your child in school and during family gatherings and will reduce mealtime stress for the family. Most importantly, it will provide your child with the nutrients required for healthy development.