Autistic – and Non Autistic -Food Issues
Many kids with autism have food issues – my children included. We never got to the extremes I have seen like only macaroni and cheese for every meal but we did have our challenges.
The biggest issues at my house for my son with autism were generally texture issues. Apple peels and pineapple were some of the biggest drama- invoking foods. Foods that touched each other on the plate were no good and the mouth feel of milk was yuck! Sitting with my extended family at a holiday dinner, my son ate a bite of something he didn’t like and declared he was invoking a definite no-pepper policy for his food until further notice.
There are two significant things that go into the feeding of my children – regardless of their autism or not. First was a small snippet I read many years before my children were born. While at my grandmother’s house in my early 20′s, I read a small article about twins separated and adopted at birth. When asked about their eating habits, the first set of parents said their child was a terrible eater and only liked foods made with cinnamon. The second set of parents said their child was a fabulous eater – just add cinnamon to anything and she would eat it. Not sure why the article stuck with me for so long but it really made a difference. I would try not to fight against my kids eating quirks but try to be creative in sharing my love of good food. I held the pepper out of my recipes until I served up my son’s portion – easy enough.
The second important thing came from one of the many parenting magazines I have devoured. The infamous NO THANK-YOU BITE. There are many studies that show kids palettes are constantly changing and they should continue to try new things. In our house, I will cook a healthy dinner and everyone is required to have one bite of each item offered. If they do not like a certain food, they can say no thank you to any more. This is one of the smartest parenting things I have ever done!! I have watched my daughter say no thank you to kale for about a year and then suddenly deciding it wasn’t so bad. I know there are some foods they may never eat, but they do eat an amazing variety of foods.
OK, an important caveat here is when the kid declares no thank you to ALL items offered for dinner. My husband and I decided that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be the only fill in for those instances. Whole-wheat bread, all-natural peanut butter and naturally sweetened jelly seems like a suitable compromise and no kid ever ate it too many times.
So, I do wish you luck in getting your kids to be adventurous eaters. Kids do not instinctively have limited taste buds. Take them shopping, let them help cook, plant some green beans and tomatoes in the summer and let them help water and pick – you will be amazed at what they will eat!
The most important thing for you to remember, most food issues do pass. My son now eats pineapple and the food can actually touch on his plate. Also, he has temporarily revoked the no pepper policy :).
Mildly Manic Mom