ASD, sensory processing and nutrition
Many children with ASD, (up to 85%), struggle with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). This can make eating an extremely difficult and overwhelming task for both the child and their caregiver(s).
Eating is one of the most sensory-rich experiences, it can be over stimulating for kids with ASD and/or SPD.
What are some ways to help children with ASD cope while eating?
1. Notice patterns in the current foods they love and start to introduce foods with similar textures, flavours, shapes, colours, and/or tastes.
2. Start where they are comfortable and take it slow. Not just eating is a win but also smelling, touching, playing, chewing, and spitting out, are all wins!
What to do if your child is struggling to try new foods:
1. Stay calm
a. Many children need to taste food more than a dozen times before they are willing to eat it without issue, children with ASD may take longer.
b. Be patient as your child explores new foods. If they still reject it after a dozen-plus time, maybe they don’t like it.
c. Get creative!
2. Take steps toward tasting
a. Help your child explore a new food by looking at it touching it, and smelling it.
b. When they are ready for a taste, they can try and ‘kiss’ or lick the food.
c. Mixing new foods with their favourites may also be an idea.
3. Tune into textures
a. It may not be the taste of the food but instead the texture. Whether it is how it feels in their mouth, in the hands, etc.
b. Try chopping or blending the foods in question.
(For example, tomato can be blended into sauce or a salsa.)
4. Play with a new food
a. Most times we do not want our children playing with their food but this is a great way for children with ASD to build familiarity and decrease mealtime anxiety with new food.
Some examples could be; to paint with pasta sauce, make faces with veggies on pizza, and use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes. Make sure your child sees you tasting and eating the food too.
5. Offer choices and control
a. Your child may need to feel some control over what they are putting in their mouths.
b. Offer broad variety and allow choices with the categories you care about.
c. Remember, it is ok that they don't like some foods.
If you are considered about feeding and nutrition for your child, make sure to discuss it with your family doctor, or pediatrician, they may be able to offer suggestions, or make an appropriate referral to a dietician and/or nutritionist. Your medical doctor will also be able to assess if there are any concerning or significant deficiencies that need to be addressed.
This blog is not designed to replace seeking the advice of a healthcare professional.
If you would like to set up a consultation with our holistic nutritionist, contact us at email@example.com or call 519.751.0728.