Introducing New Foods to a Child With Eating Difficulties

Introduction

Introducing new foods to children can be a challenge in itself, but when you have an Autistic child who also has eating difficulties or inflexibilities, it can become even more challenging. Autistic children can have sensory sensitivities that make trying new foods difficult. We always want to encourage our child/children to expand their palate without creating an aversive experience. This can require planning and patience. However, introducing new foods to your Autistic child is not impossible. With some creativity and gentle perseverance, you can help your child expand their palate and develop a healthier relationship with a variety of foods.

Here are some tips on how to introduce new foods to an autistic child with eating challenges:

  1. Start small: Begin by introducing small amounts of a new food alongside familiar foods. Encourage your child to just touch and smell the new food, and eventually take just one bite. Gradually increase the amount of the new food as your child becomes more comfortable with it.
  2. Use visual aids: Autistic children often respond well to visual cues. Use visual aids such as picture cards or visual schedules to help your child understand what to expect when trying new foods.
  3. Create a routine: Establish a routine around meals that includes consistent meal times and a structured eating environment. Autistic children often thrive on routines and predictability, so having a set routine can help reduce anxiety around trying new foods.
  4. Offer choices: Allow your child to have some control over their food choices. Offer options for meals or snacks and let your child pick what they want to eat ahead of time. This can give them a sense of agency and autonomy in their food choices.
  5. Celebrate their wins: Praise your child for trying new foods, even if they only take a small bite or touch the food. Positive verbal encouragement can help your child feel more confident and motivated to continue trying new foods.
  6. Be patient: It may take time for your child to feel comfortable trying new foods, so be patient and give them the space they need to explore and experiment with different foods at their own pace.
  7. Seek support: If you are struggling to introduce new foods to your autistic child, consider seeking support from a feeding specialist- an occupational therapist or Speech therapist who specializes in feeding challenges. They can provide guidance, strategies, and resources to help you and your child navigate food challenges.

With time and effort, your child can learn to enjoy a variety of foods and have a positive eating experience. Remember that while this is a process that requires patience and perseverance, progress is possible.

Reviewed by:

Brandie Buckner
Brandie BucknerBCBA
Brandie Buckner BCBA, LBA holds her Master’s of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis. Brandie originally hails from California, and is currently serving as a BCBA in the greater Atlanta area. Brandie is passionate about making a difference in the lives of families with Autistic children. Being a parent of 2 Autistics, prompted her to serve within the Autistic community. Brandie began as an advocate, and quickly realized the barriers families face everyday. Brandie believes that each child should be given the opportunity to thrive, have access to available resources, gain personal independence, and move towards a life that provides purpose and pride in themselves. Brandie loves creating learning opportunities for children that help them grow, and enjoys working with parents toward socially significant goals, while providing empathy and respecting cultural differences. Brandie also holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Organizational Leadership, and was a two-time business owner before she became a military spouse. In the future, Brandie would like to create/expand resources for Autistics, beyond the early intervention age. Brandie has lived in various locations, she loves to travel, and enjoys the beauty of nature.

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