Many children on the autism spectrum have some kind of food issues.
What are food issues?
I believe that anyone on the autism spectrum can have reactions to oral stimuli. Many make noises with their mouths in order to help regulate themselves.
Food issues often stem from oral issues.
They also are connected with digestive issues. People on the autism spectrum generally feel more nervous in the outside world, especially if they’re in a situation where they cannot regulate their bodies. This nervousness often gets internalized, which can create more digestive issues.
I have seen many different types of food issues in children on the autism spectrum.
How varied are they?
I know two children who are close in age, both are high functioning. One child will eat anything that is put in front of him. The parents have had very few issues with this child. He’ll try anything and has a wide range of food he likes.
The other child will only eat only a few foods. One is apples, the other is a pizza that comes only from one pizza place.
Why is there such a huge difference?
My guess is that not even the “experts” really know for sure.
It may be connected to some type of oral issue(s), or it may be behavioral, or it may be a combination.
Where does my child fall?
Right in the middle.
I remember when we were first working with the Discreet Trail Training/Floor Time supervisor. She observed what I was feeding my toddler for lunch—cut up pieces of turkey, cheese, strawberries, and grapes. Healthy, I thought. And, it is healthy.
Then, the supervisor pointed something out to me. She noticed that I was feeding my son the exact same thing every single day.
She made a suggestion, try some variety.
Especially since my child was so young. Why not?
Now that my son is older, he does scoff at trying new things. If we plead with him (and threaten a small consequence), he’ll begrudgingly to do. But, he doesn’t usually like it.
What are some tricks?
I’ll pass along one “trick” that a friend taught me recently.
While on vacation in Puerto Rico, my friend made me a morning smoothie. She packed it with yogurt, fruits, and some spinach.
I came home and began to make one for myself.
Then, I came up with an idea.
I knew my son liked banana and strawberries. One morning, he was curiously watching me make my smoothie. I told him it was just banana and strawberries, ice, and water. I said it was a fruit smoothie, like a milkshake (which he loves) but made with two fruits that he likes.
He tried it, and liked it!
Now, we share a smoothie almost every morning. Of course, I don’t let him see what else I put in our smoothie along with banana and strawberries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and kale).
If he asks, I’ll tell him.
But, he has yet to ask. He just drinks his smoothie.
My point? I’m slipping in some very valuable healthy food, and my son doesn’t seem to mind.
And, what he doesn’t know really won’t hurt him, in this case.
Sometimes I guess you really do need to hide the “good” stuff so that your child still gets what he/she needs. These food issues can be quite serious. Take them seriously.
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