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Parenting Corner- Food Aversion and Autism

June 15, 2019

Children with autism are more sensitive to their surroundings as compared to other kids. They are affected by different sounds, lights, smells, textures, colors and certain food items. Food aversion amongst children with autism is a common condition.

Food aversion or extreme pickiness about what they eat can become a major health issue for the children and stop them from getting proper nutrition. Many a times children with autism tend to be very selective about the food that they prefer to eat.

Lack of proper nutrition and balanced diet has adverse effect on the growth and development of children with autism making it crucial to help them eat better.

In some cases children with autism refuse to eat anything apart from a few select items or only eat when certain food items are prepared according to their wish. Any forced feeding attempt may cause tantrums resulting in stressful meal times for the whole family.

Children with autism are not always able to share their feelings and can be easily misunderstood.

Children with ASD are often misunderstood and not treated fairly by teachers, peers and society. Creating awareness and talking about the symptoms can help people understand the needs of children with ASD.Caroline Jega, parent

Causes & Treatment

The reason behind food aversion or related feeding disorders is still not clear. However, the condition can be resolved to certain extend through intervention of doctors and therapists.

Experts can help determine if the food aversion is due to sensory issues and the child does not like certain smells, textures or the consistency of food. Depending on the child’s diagnoses a treatment plan can be created that can help children with autism overcome the food barriers.

Therapists can introduce new food items to the child’s diet in a slow process while also helping them with issues such as difficulty in chewing, swallowing and oral stimulation. Therapy and counselling have been found to be effective in resolving feeding disorders in many instances.

Role of Parents

Parents can also play a crucial role and help the child through the treatment by using some ideas.

  1. Make sure that the food issue is not due to any other medical condition. The child may be suffering from stomach pain, bowel issues and that might be causing the aversions.

  2. It is important that parent stay calm and not scold the child for refusing to eat.

  3. Encourage the child to sample new foods in small quantities and stay patient.

  4. Try changing textures of the food as the aversion might be because of how a food feels in the mouth, rather than its flavor.

  5. Offer choices to the children to select from and make them feel they are in control.

  6. Reward the child and appreciate for every small step taken forward.

  7. Allow the child to play with the food, touching, making shapes with dough, coloring with sauce can help the child take more positive interest in food.

  8. Involve the child in the cooking or food making process.

Sangeeta Kundra Choudhury is a parent and member of Special Child Assistance Network or SCAN. She feels patience is the key. “Children with autism need to be treated with patience, kindness and understanding. A lot can be achieved and positive changes can be observed in behaviors through love and affection,says Sangeeta.

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