Tips on Getting Kids with Autism to Try Colourful Foods
It is common for children with autism to have eating difficulties, particularly when it comes to eating colourful foods. Lots of children prefer to eat plain, beige-coloured food, such as chicken nuggets and potatoes.
Why is it more challenging to get an Autistic child to eat colourful foods?
Sensory processing issues have a lot to do with this because colours, textures, smells and tastes can be extremely overwhelming for autistic children and can have a huge impact on how they feel. A lot of colourful foods, such as fruit and vegetables, can change in taste depending on the season and this can be problematic for children who like routine and predictability. In this blog, we will provide you with some suggestions of things that you can try to encourage your child to try colourful foods.
Tips on helping your Autistic child eat a variety of foods
No Pressure, introduce new foods gradually
Trying new foods can overwhelm and cause anxiety for children with autism so it’s important that you do not put any pressure on them. Take things one food at a time. Let them explore a new food and gradually they might like to try touching it, smelling it or even licking it. Let them take the lead.
Try their preferred method of communication
Try using visuals when introducing new foods. This could be using PECS or an AAC device. Using visuals can help your child to mentally prepare and may help to alleviate any anxiety. If your child struggles to communicate and does not use pictures or symbols, take note of the way that they communicate with their body. For example, they might push food away or become upset.
Try new foods in a comfortable environment
Think about the environment that your child eats in. Is it noisy? Do they prefer a quiet space? What does it smell like? What is the lighting like? All of these things can have an impact on your child and how secure they feel.
Aids to help your child eat
Consider asking for a referral to an Occupational Therapist who can provide you with aids to help your child eat. This might include specialist seating, angled or weight cutlery or a special bowl. Aids can make your child feel more confident eating.
Present the food in a way that they prefer
Think about how you present new foods to your child. They might find it easier to be chopped up or might not feel comfortable touching it with their hands. Some children prefer a plate that is not overloaded with food. Lots of children with autism notice changes in the presentation of their food so when you find what works, it’s important to bear this in mind.
Keep a food diary
When keeping a food diary consider the following:
- What they ate.
- Whether they liked it.
- What time they ate.
- Where they ate.
- What aids they used.
- How the food was presented.
- How they were feeling.
Taking note of these things can help you to identify patterns and behaviours and what works best for your child when introducing new foods.
Praise your child and reward them for being brave
It’s important to stay positive and praise your child when they try new things, even if they do not like them. Having the confidence to try to touch, smell or taste them is a huge achievement and you should always remember this. Always use positive language.