Last month our service providers attended a seminar, Mealtime success for kids on the spectrum. Susan Roberts an occupational therapist who has been working with kids for over thirty years taught the seminar.
We all need a dose of perspective when working through challenges with our kids, so before the seminar began we were grouped into pairs to do an eating exercise. On a plate were strips of dried seaweed, black tea pumpkin seeds, and a cookie. We were instructed to let our partner feed us without speaking. It was awful to say the least. Not being able to control the pace, amount, or item made me feel sick. If your patience with your child at mealtime is running low, try this exercise!
My favorite quote of the day “Adult sets the goal, child sets the pace”. The progress with mealtime is very slow, so baby steps are key. Continue to remind yourself the sensory experience of mealtime is often very overwhelming for individuals on the spectrum. The texture, taste, smell and visual look of foods are challenging. Roberts often reminded us that all kids can need up to 25 times to experience a food before determining like/dislike.
The basic steps to increasing tolerance with foods are...
First, being able to tolerate food in the room
Second, tolerating food on the plate
Third, interacting with food in a playful way
Fourth, touching and smelling food
Fifth, tasting food
and last… eating!
Speak with our occupational therapist, Krisanne Lewis or another member of the Autism Journeys team for additional mealtime suggestions.
Enjoy the experience of mealtime this holiday season.
Assistant Program Director
Meal Time Tips
Portion size: appropriate portion size is the palm of the child. Use small portions with big plates.
Preferred items: have at least one preferred item at the table.
Drinks: Drinks fill the stomach up. Watch your child to monitor how much liquid they are drinking at mealtime. You may need to eat the meal first then offer drinks.
Grazing: Try to decrease grazing as much as possible. This allows the body to learn to metabolize and will increase mealtime success.
Chaining: If your child is very picky, use a method called “chaining”. Take a preferred item and change one variable. For example take preferred food and change color, brand, container etc.
Make meals interactive: Allow the child to be part of the preparation, make-up games, pair their food with a story or their special interest.