Extreme pickiness, or food aversion, is one of the big challenges parents face when caring for autistic children. The major concern is that your child may be in the habit of eating only unhealthy foods lacking essential nutrition required to grow and remain healthy. Usually the treatment for food aversion involves a registered dietitian, a speech/language pathologist, and at times an occupational therapist.
During the treatment prechaining comes in, which entails establishing the base of the foods your child tolerates, and then, other foods are slowly introduced in little amounts; those that are acceptable are added to the list of foods provided often.
Parents are frequently asked to videotape feedings to create a better and more appropriate treatment plan.
If the problems arise from difficulty swallowing, a speech therapist and even an occupational therapist will give recommendations about consistency, food textures, positioning, and the usage of special feeding implements.
Most children show sensory integration issues at mealtimes. For instance, children may choose to eat only foods of certain texture, temperature, or consistency. Some children cannot suck, swallow, or chew; these children should be permitted to feel the foods with their hands, for it helps them to process what the food will feel like inside their mouth. Be ready to clean up messes. Always start with little amounts so the portion will not look overwhelming.
Some children with food aversion may benefit from oral stimulation which is unrelated to food or nutrition. Let the child suck on a damp washcloth, gum a frozen carrot, or chew on a pacifier.
Put away all potential stimulation at mealtime, if your child gets distracted easily. Other sensory stimulation may override hunger and defeat successful eating. Switch off the radio and television, ensure there is plenty of light, and clear the table of all items not related to the meal.
All family members should eat the same meal. Change textures less and less as time passes. If the goal is to eat baked potatoes and your child only tolerates mashed potatoes, mash potatoes a tiny bit less each time you prepare them to assist your child to become accustomed to the difference gradually.