I’m sure any parent of a kid with autism can nod their head when they read that title. We ALL struggle through this. Some of us have it harder than others. Some kids with autism will only eat certain colours…some WON’T eat certain colours. Silas wouldn’t eat orange or white for a long long time. Eating is a full on sensory experience. There’s so many ways that food can mess up a spectrum kid’s day.
Silas had a hard time chewing, he had a hard time even knowing to close his mouth over a spoon. His food was mainly pureed or mushy until he was at least 13 months old, he couldn’t eat apple until well after the age of two. He still won’t really chew his food, more of a stuff and swallow technique. I can understand that one. I was a food stuffer too.
I still love the feeling of chips in my mouth. LOTS of chips. I remember in grade 7 I was shoveling a bag in my mouth, I thought I was doing it in private and someone saw me with this look of horror on their face. I was so embarrassed. It’s not lady-like to food stuff but, darnit, it feels COOL. (iswearimsomewhereonthespectrum)
Silas would often scream during feedings. You had to do it just right. Looking back I’d do it differently. He didn’t know how to spit food out so he would just swallow it, even if he didn’t like it. I think I was a bit disrespectful with that one. But people would think we were nuts when we would give them specific directions with feeding him. We didn’t know any better. I don’t remember all of the rules anymore but there were a bunch.
As he grew, his tastes got more and more specific. He didn’t like the colour of certain foods. He didn’t like the texture (gagged). He didn’t like the look of it or the taste. For the longest time things couldn’t be touching or mixed together so I would make him a deconstructed version of what supper was.
Spaghetti? For him I would leave out some plain beef, plain noodles and add a few uncooked veggies to his plate. Nothing touching. Everything plain as freaking plain can be.
Veggies have to be uncooked although there were a few weird times when the planets aligned and Silas ate weird things…like cooked veggies, shredded cheese, and any other thing my SISTER’S could talk him into.
There’s a few weird exceptions to the rules. Silas will eat pizza….pizza is a bunch of things together…including CHEESE!! Silas will also have milk in his cereal. Nowhere else though. Milk products are NOT ok in his books. Creamy is like, the worst to him.
So we went along in life, dealing with these food issues but I never was too upset about it. I never pushed him, I never got mad at him for his food aversions. It’s not his fault he has autism of course. I’d, of course, make him eat a few more veggies before having a second helping of what he loved and if he didn’t wanna do it then fine. Not a problem. I NEVER made him eat something that made him gag. I guess I just have respected his issues without compromising his health. Supplements come in HUGE here.
The only meal he had trouble with was supper. The rest of the day I fed him foods he loved, there were an abundance. Oatmeal is often breakfast and I try to change it up with different things in it…sometimes it gets rejected. Lunch is usually raw fruits and veggies with bread or crackers…snack is often an apple or something like that. Scrambled eggs can ALWAYS be served to his delight. Some days all he ate were oatmeal and scrambled eggs but I felt like at least they were healthy. Cholesterol is actually really needed for kids on the spectrum.
I should say…he also has a peanut allergy…so that makes this whole eating thing suck even harder. SO MUCH HARDER. Friggin peanuts…I hate this allergy.
If i had let him, he would be completely addicted to sugar and starches. He’d eat a whole loaf of bread a day. Thank God for fruit. It’s sweet and he’ll eat it.
This is where our story gets exciting.
A while ago I think I had forgotten to leave out plain noodles in the pasta dish I was making. I then had an idea. He’s a pizza maniac. I told him it was noodles with pizza sauce and HE GOBBLED IT RIGHT UP! I was shocked, I was astonished, I was INCREDIBLY proud of myself. Sometimes I’ve just gotta pat myself of the back for his awesome breakthroughs….and I do. Leah got a gigantic gold star AND a cookie. Happy dances all around.
This opened pandoras box. Silas is now WAY more likely to try food that’s all mixed together. I don’t do it often, but I’ll try something new on him just to put a spin on things. Put something new in his “pizza sauce”. If he doesn’t like it he won’t just sit there and scream about it, he takes it off his plate and puts it on the table…messy but at least he’s not screaming?
Now…here’s where I get REALLY excited!! The other day I found cheese in the grocery store CALLED Pizza Mozzarella!! I showed it to him and proceeded to make him a quesadilla with it. It also had in it chicken with chili powder and friend onions (and a little bit of my finger because I didn’t use the guard on the mandolin…that’s probably why it was so delicious) and he ate it all! Now he’s ASKING for grilled cheese sandwiches!!!! MORE HAPPY DANCING!!!!
We’re finding more and more successes with his eating than ever before. He’s trying new things constantly. Last night it was sweet and sour chicken and he gobbled up all the chicken, leaving the rice. He used to eat rice but I’m just glad he ate saucy chicken and that he just flicked the rice off it rather than flipping out about it.
I know every child with autism is totally different and that my techniques are already proven to NOT work on every child…via @LaurieMit, she tried the pizza thing and it was a no go. I’ve still thought about what I’ve done over the years and perhaps there’s a nugget or two that you may or may not be able to take from what I’ve done. Keep in mind that Silas has high functioning autism and always consult your physician.
- Respect the child, don’t force food on him. Images of my brother throwing up fried onions, after being forced to eat them, float through my head when Silas gags at something. We are in a different generation now and we’re realizing it’s ok if they don’t want to eat everything on their plate!
- Serve a variety of foods NO MATTER WHAT. I put a tiny bit of what we were eating on his plate a lot of the time. A lot of the time he made me take it off…conditioning I think.
- Don’t fret about it. Obviously there’s severe cases where the child eats nothing (has to have a tube in their tummy etc.). I knew with my son that he will eat when he is hungry and he always did. Suppers for him were sometimes some noodles and an apple. SUPPLEMENTS…LOTS OF SUPPLEMENTS.
- Try and make little twists to what they love. I often failed with the oatmeal changes but I still tried. Now he even likes fruit cooked into it which never happened before.
- Realize that this is a life long struggle. This will be for us too. Silas has an incredibly accepting personality but this has been a long time in the making…these few small changes. Might be even longer/shorter for you.
- Don’t give in to unhealthy food that you KNOW they will eat. This falls into all parents of picky eaters. I have a VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY hard time seeing an obese child. I categorize that under “child abuse” and unless there’s a medical problem, you have NO excuse. I don’t care if your kid has to be put on an IV in the hospital….feeding them shit all the time is screwing them up in every single aspect in life. You’re f*cking up your kid’s life. Stop it. (whoa I totally just ranted…but I feel like if I have such a picky eater who is at a very nice body weight and he has a MEDICAL reason for being a picky eater then your typical child could be just the same).
- Try and find a way into that OCD type behavior. They’ll only eat a certain colour or they don’t want food mixed together just because. If it doesn’t make them gag then there’s something we can do about it. I found the pizza niche…there might be something you could find in there for your kid.
- Trust yourself. That’s really what I did. I trusted my inner mommy and I went with what felt right for us. There might be nothing here that makes sense for YOU. All I can really say is respect your child’s health, body and mind and trust your instincts….unless it’s to feed them McDonalds every day 🙂
Click HERE for some information a friend of mine (@Omum22 ) gleaned from a recent ASD workshop. It’s chalked full of information that will definitely help you more in your journey to helping your child eat a wider variety of foods.