Forming positive strategies for mealtime can significantly improve your child’s chance of leading a healthy and independent life. One common symptom of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is mealtime issues such as trouble with new foods or simply refusing to eat. To help ease the common struggles that children with autism face, a food and nutrition program can help improve your child’s eating habits and encourage them to try new foods.
Several different strategies can improve the common issues with autism and mealtime. Our food and nutrition program at Camp Worth works with your child to improve mealtime strategies to help them cope with the common mealtime issues that children with autism face. At Camp Worth, our board-certified behavioral therapists and other staff will work with your teen son or daughter aged 11-17 to improve their eating habits. We help parents and teens learn fun mealtime strategies through our various programs at our residential autism center. For more information about positive strategies for mealtime, call 855.915.2545 today to speak with our friendly staff about our food and nutrition program.
3 Positive Strategies for Mealtime with an Autistic Child
1. Make Mealtime Fun
Encourage examining or playing with their food so they can get used to the look and feel of it. Cut sandwiches into fun shapes. Let them paint with pasta sauce. Have them watch you touch and taste different foods while encouraging them to mimic you.
2. Practice Patience
Be patient when getting your child with autism familiar with different foods. It can take several attempts before they can eat something new without getting upset. Be encouraging and offer rewards when they eat a meal without any issues, such as extra time with a favorite toy or activity or a healthy snack.
3. Freedom of Choice
Allow them to pick the foods they like. Like any child, sometimes they simply do not like the taste of certain foods. You can find out which fruits, vegetables, and proteins they like the most by offering them multiple choices of each and letting them pick which one they like the most.
Common Struggles with Autism and Mealtime
Research shows that children with autism are five times more likely to have trouble during mealtimes. They often go for starchy, unhealthy foods like sweets rather than fruits and vegetables, and if they are not used to trying new foods, it can cause significant disruption if they are not familiar with something new on their plate. Many parents unwittingly allow them to eat the foods that cause the least problems, leading to unhealthy eating habits and future health and behavioral problems.
Some common issues that children with autism face during mealtimes include:
- Aversion to new foods
- Not being hungry at mealtimes
- Strong preference for one or two kinds of food
- Disruptive behavior during mealtime
- Food sensitivities that can cause gastrointestinal issues
There are many healthy strategies for mealtime that you can use to improve mealtime at home and while out in public or at a friend or relative’s house. Children with autism thrive on routine. Make sure mealtimes are at the same time every day, and you follow the same routines. Over time, you will build patterns for introducing new foods and how to deal with other disruptions like siblings missing mealtime for work or school.
Additional Programs at Camp Worth
At Camp Worth, we help teens aged 11-17 and their families lead healthy and happy lives. Developing positive strategies for mealtime is just one aspect of helping your teen lead a happy and independent life. Our residential autism treatment facility includes various therapy options to improve the lives of our residents:
- Education program
- Autism parent training program
- Speech therapy
- Medication management
- Social skills group
- Functional skills training
Get Positive Strategies for Mealtime at Camp Worth
Through the use of strategies for mealtime, families of teens with autism can make meals more fun and relaxed. Our Camp Worth team can help. Learn more positive mealtime strategies or information on our food and nutrition program when you call 855.915.2545 today to speak with our knowledgeable staff or reach out to us online.