Today's post is from Abby Brayton, MS, OTR/L is a pediatric occupational therapist practicing in southern California. She has five years of experience working with children with a diverse range of abilities, including children on the autism spectrum. Her work experience includes school based practice, early intervention, and feeding therapy. Abby recently began blogging about her experiences as a pediatric occupational therapist at www.pediatricotblog.blogspot.
com and can be reached at AbbyPediatricOT [AT] gmail.com.
Big thanks to Abby for sharing this!
10 Tips for Feeding Your Toddler with Autism
Children with autism frequently have feeding challenges. These challenges may be due to food intolerances, GI issues, texture preferences and sensory sensitivities, or difficulty with changes in routine. Follow these tips to help make mealtimes with your toddler with autism more successful!
1. Rule out food allergies and intolerances. Children with autism often have gastrointestinal problems and may benefit from being on a special diet. Consult your doctor and a nutritionist to determine your child’s dietary needs.
2. Create a mealtime routine. Have a specific place where your toddler sits to eat. Avoid following your toddler around the house trying to sneak spoonfuls of food into his mouth! Try to feed your toddler every 2-3 hours (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack). Use a visual schedule if necessary.
3. Touch, smell, kiss, lick, bite. When introducing a new food, encourage your toddler to first touch the food. Move on to smelling the new food. Work up to giving the new food a kiss. Progress to licking the new food, and finally take a bite of the new food.
4. Reward desired behaviors. If you make a big deal out of your child not eating, that is what he will do. Reward and praise the behaviors you want from your child, even if it’s just touching the food on his plate.
5. Crunch it. If your child is sensory seeking and puts everything in her mouth, try introducing crunchy or chewy foods to assist with self-regulation. Carrots, apples, granola, and dried fruits are a good place to start.
6. Surround your toddler with food. Read books about food. Take your toddler to the grocery store or farmer’s market and explore the sights and smells of food. Engage in pretend play with toy food. Let your toddler assist with food preparation.
7. Get messy. Finger paint with pudding or yogurt. Build towers out of marshmallows. Make abstract art out of cooked noodles.
8. Dip it. Encourage your toddler to dip foods to increase exposure to a variety of flavors and textures. You can try ranch dressing, jams and jellies, honey, caramel sauce, hummus, vegetable dips, salsa, and pasta sauces.
9. Sprinkle. Add texture to food slowly by sprinkling crushed crackers, cereal, or granola onto your toddler’s food.
10. Be patient and have fun! I know you want your child to eat, but expecting giant leaps to occur overnight will put too much pressure on yourself and your toddler! Introduce new textures and flavors gradually. Celebrate the small victories and keep mealtimes structured, yet fun!
This post is for general educational uses only. It is recommended that you consult with your child’s doctor, nutritionist, and/or occupational therapist for advice specific to your child.