#Autism, #SPD and Mealtime Difficulties

Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of parenting a child with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder, at least for me, is feeding them. 

While Gavin was absolutely impossible to feed when he was younger, he’s no longer a picky eater and is quite easy to feed and prepare food for. 

My other two, Elliott and Emmett are very difficult to feed at mealtimes. 

In Elliott’s case, he’s always finding something wrong with the way things tastes.  There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason either.  Seemingly out of nowhere, something he’s eaten for a very long time, will begin to taste funny.  He will literally go hungry before eats something that he feels tastes funny.



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Unfortunately, for him, with a recent diagnosis of allergies to treenuts, his options are limited. Often times, I think he’s actually afraid to eat for fear of having a reaction.

Over time, this has only gotten worse for him and us. 

Emmett is hands down the most challenging to feed.  Not only is he sensitive to taste, but also sensitive to color, smell and appearance.

With Emmett, typically I have to remake whatever I make for him to eat. 

Everything has to look the same.  For example, if he’s having chicken nuggets, the breading, color, shape and size must be uniform or he won’t touch anything.  We also can’t have his food touching anything else on the plate. 

If he’s eating pizza, the slice has to be either a clean cut square or triangle. The triangle has to be pointy or its considered broken and a meltdown is produced. 

Read This  I'm so worried about Gavin's labs today

There are only a handful of things that will please everyone.  Pizza is one of those things, although lately, Elliott will only eat certain pizza because he tastes the changes in recipes and will no longer eat it. 
As the cook in the house, it not uncommon for me to cook 3 different meals, for each meal.  I will also likely have to remake something, at least once (usually for Emmett).

Unlike Gavin, who did better as he got older, the other boys seem to be getting more challenging as time goes on.

Hopefully, things will ease up in the future because unfortunately, right now, way to much food is wasted.
What’s your experience with this type of sensory/food issues? Do you have a goto food that works in a pinch? Have you noticed things getting better or worse with time?

Do have problems getting people to understand and support your child’s sensitivity to things like food?


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  • Adult Aspie SPD says:

    Rob, I can identify with your posts so intensely. I’m an adult Asperger’s and SPD picky eater. I was always “picky” and to this day my Mum tells me about how I absolutely refused to eat when I was a toddler qhen something repulsed me (that only a week before had been fine). Pizzas with perfdct triangle shapes, pizza squares with perfect square shapes, pasta sauce that can’t be too lumpy or too runny, pasta that all tastes different, chicken nuggets that can’t have any chewy bits in them, breading and shapes must all be the same, my food absolutely can NOT touch anything else when I have more than one item on the plate (which I try to avoid anyway), finding food tasting “rotten” or “strange” all of the sudden, tasting the slightest variation in recipes (and tasting newly added ingredients – no hiding anything with me), not being able to eat out uess it’s fries (and they have to be a certain colour and texture) from McDonald’s, no one understanding me outside of my family because others think I’m “crazy”, have an eating disorder or am purposely being difficult (not to mention the favourite term of “spoiled adult”), a VERY limited menu option, especially due to severe allergies and ulcerative colitis…I could go on and on. I understand you completely and sympathize. Even at my age I burst into tears of frustration often (and do have meltdowns, although fairly controlled ones). For me, the food issues grew worse the older I got. My old standy-by used to be fresh tomatoes with salt…except that we can barely ever find tomatoes that are firm (they can’t even be slightly mushy). So that’s out. Tomato “stew” without any meat and only tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste and seasonings was my other stand-by, but no longer since the quality of the tomato paste and diced canned tomatoes keeps changing. Pizza used to be good in a pinch, but not anymore, as I can tolerate the iron in the flour (I actually taste it). Fries are also out because I’m simply sick of them. Right now with my ulcerative colitis in such bad condition, I barely eat. It’s amazing if my mother and I can sit down for dinner together. I can’t tolerate looking at her food (it’s too repulsive), and she lets everything touch everything else. Not to mention the fact that I can “hear” her eat (she doesn’t chomp…it’s just me) and that’s enough to send me into a meltdown. I’m at as much of a loss as you are. It’s a fairly impossible situation. One food is fine for a while and then moves onto the “repulsive” list. I’ve had better stages but right now I’m in a very bad one. I tend to vary, although overall I grew worse with increased age. Hugs to the boys (on a day they’re feeling “huggy”) and please know you’re not alone. You’re doing your best and our family supports you and your wife. It’s so difficult, but have joy in the successes and try to grin and bear the rest. Mealtime here takes – on average – of 4 to 5 hours each night (with about a half hour to hour of preparation time included). And do I ever eat slowly. I can NOT finish a meal quickly or gobble a snack. To me, that’s impossible. Hang in there; when you find something the boys like and enjoy, make it as often as possible, remember to keep the foods on a plate from “fraternizing”, keep all shapes recognizable and conforming to parameters, and try to keep mealtimes as relaxed and calm and accepting as possible. The boys will notice and appreciate it. You’re a wonderful dad and you’re doing the best job you can.

  • rmagliozzi says:

    My youngest was like Gavin but now is alot easier. He still can’t eat veggies due to texture issues, so he has to drink them in a smoothie. The GFCF diet and food allergies forced him to start trying new foods, so it was all a blessing in disguise. The youngest was a very weak eater until we realized he had hypothyroidism and a little bit too much inflammation in his body. He is slowly regaining his appetite and starting to fill out now that he’s started a low dose of thyroid medication.

  • Aspie Writer says:

    Yes! This is something I talk about extensively in my book.  It does not get better or worse with time, just different.  Their meal preferences change–MY meal preferences change and are very much controlled by sensitivies, both to taste, smell, and yes, even how things look.  It is especially bad if something “feels” wrong in my mouth, brings on an immediate gag reflex. Half the time, I eat something different than everyone else in my house, and almost every night all three boys each something different from one another.  A lot of work, but absolutely necessary.

  • biolagaga says:

    My mom goes nuts because i will obsessively eat one thing, and then i will refuse to eat it again in a year. Now as I am on lowcarb I am ONLY eating bbq ribs. expensive in norway…

  • JenniferWhynott says:

    I totally understand you Rob! My oldest did not eat meat of any kind until she was 8 now she eats chicken, some fish and beef and she is 12. My Dx’d aspie kiddo eats about 12 foods and she has the same issues with taste and look. By golly George I hate it when they change recipes in our store bought foods. My last 2 kiddos will eat a pretty balanced diet if I try really hard. Most days though by dinner I am too tired to try harder. For breakfast they each have like French toast, waffles, or breadsticks. I have packed each of them the same lunches since they started school. My son LOVES the smores poptarts and wants that before anything else. We have limited him to 2 a day. I often make 3 different dinners as well. The one meal that we can all eat is noodles. The kids all have parmers on them no sauce no butter. The hubs and I will have sauce.

  • AMDuser says:

    My friends think I am weird sometimes because I don’t like Macncheese because of the texture and another common issues sometimes is issues with milk because for me the flavor is different from company to company also another factor is when the Milk providers change the feed that they give there Cows. When that happens I eaither only use it with Ceral one that changes the flavor or use chocolate milk mix enough to get rid of the taste of the milk.