One of the biggest struggles many parents with Autistic children have, has to do with feeding or mealtimes. I can say from personal experience, that this is one of our biggest struggles as well.
I think that it’s a common misconception to think that kids on the Autism Spectrum are just picky eaters.
In truth, I suppose it looks that way to the outsider but in reality, it’s much, much more complicated than that. While I can’t and won’t speak for your child, I can share what I know about mine.
Many, many kids on the Autism Spectrum, also have something called Sensory Processing Disorder as well. In a nutshell, this basically means that their body struggles with interpretation of sensory input. This can result in extreme overreactions to things like taste, smell, texture, noise, lights as well as other visual stimulus.
Now that we’re all on the same page, back to the picky eating point of this post.
Elliott and Emmett are extremely sensory sensitive. Gavin has come along quite well offer the years, especially when it comes to food.
It’s not uncommon for me to have to make three different meals in order for everyone to eat. It’s also not uncommon for me to have to remake two of those meals, several times, before they will be deemed eatable.
Most people would say that, if they’re really hungry, they’ll eat.
The people that would say that, very clearly don’t have a child with Autism and/or Sensory Processing Disorder because if they did, they would be cognizant of the fact that these kids would sooner starve than put the offending food item into their mouth.
I mean that quite literally.
This has been an ongoing issue for many years and for the most part, we’ve found ways to work with this at home. It’s not easy and it’s quite frustrating but we manage to get everyone eating at every meal, at least most of the time.
However, now that school is back in session this has become a problem once again.
We all know that cafeteria food isn’t always the best and even kids without these sensory issues, find the food unpleasant. Imagine what it’s like to be faced with the situation of being very hungry but being unable to physically tolerate the food being offered?
I can’t stress enough, that this is not about kids trying to be difficult. This is about kids that are being assaulted by their senses. This is about kids that would rather go hungry than suffer the sensory assault of food that has an offensive texture, color, smell, appearance or taste.
There is likely nothing wrong with the food in question, it’s all about how the child’s brain is interpreting everything.
I’m telling you, these kids will not just eat if they’re hungry. They simply won’t. I deal with this every single day will my boys.
You can think about it like this. If someone offered you a handful of worms for lunch, would you eat them? It’s safe to say that you probably wouldn’t. Could you handle the texture, taste, smell and appearance of a handful of squiggly worms?
Let’s say that you missed breakfast and were really hungry. Would you eat the worms then?
How hungry would you have to be?
Would you be able to deal with even the idea of shoving those worms into your mouth, chewing them up and swallowing?
Would it be fair for someone to say, hey if you’re hungry, you’ll eat the worms?
I suspect that you would find that unfair and you know what? You’d be right. In the same light, it’s not fair to just expect kids or even adults with Autism and/or Sensory Processing Disorder to do something that you would be unwilling to do yourself.
While no one’s expecting you or these kids to eat worms, my hope is that this example helps you have a better understanding of what these kids experience when it comes to eating and sensory processing related food proclivities.
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@Kathy Farnen Talbot reonyea Pooshnc Meaghan1985 Silachan wishiwereinny really good feedback everyone. Let keep the conversation going. 🙂
I find my anxiety causes me problems with food – if I’m not on top of everything mentally I can’t really handle raw meat, and I’ll find myself backed up against a wall on the other side of the room trying to get away from it, trying not to cry. It makes me a wonderful cook. I also increasingly can’t have meat in takeout food, because I don’t trust it to have the right texture. It can cause me to have panic attacks if I feel under too much pressure to eat the food.
Some days I hate food! I have one on the spectrum that’s a problem eater and another not on the spectrum that is tube fed from being a preemie with severe reflux. We drink a lot of Pediasure in this house!
This article is about kids with sensory processing related food issues.
Silachan I’m the same way, Silchan. My diet is not very good but there just aren’t that many foods I can stand to eat, never mind foods I actually LIKE.
i can’t count the amount of times I refused to eat dinner and went to bed hungry because I knew that the texture or taste of whatever was offered was going to be too much for me. Mom loved to cook meat dinners. Steaks, chicken, hamburgers. I can’t do it. I can sometimes do chicken and I like fish when cooked a certain way. But steak, or hamburger, or pork? Never.
Take it from an adult with autism- we would rather starve than eat something that won’t agree with us. I hate feeling hungry, but I also hate a lot of foods and would rather be hungry than eat them. With kids, I try the “2 bite” rule. 2 bites of a new food, if you like it you can have it. If you don’t like it, you’re free to have something else that you DO like. With SPD or autism, instead of 2 bites- try 2 of something else. 2 sniffs, or 2 touches. Even letting it sit on their plate is a step toward getting them to accept it.
Also look up “Food chaining”. It’s a technique that I’ve heard is successful with helping kids expand their food choices.
So I’m very curious, what do they easy for lunch? Or I’ll say, what are they offered? Is it school food, home food, or a combo of both? Because they are at Summit, is the school more sensitive to these things?
SPD is why I keep a good supply of the foods my son will eat. Chef Boy R Dee Beefaroni, Kraft Easy Mac or Kraft Easy Shells n Cheese and Hot Pockets. All I have to do is add a salad of plain iceberg lettuce and one of those little cups of applesauce and dinner is done for him. He rarely if ever eats the same food that me and his dad eat for dinner. Holiday dinners?? Forget it…won’t eat anything but rolls….Pizza? Cheese only….School lunches?? Absolutely not….when he was in public school he could not even eat lunch in the cafeteria. He would literally vomit just by looking at the food, especially chicken..fried chicken, chicken nuggets or chicken sandwich…didn’t matter what kind of chicken it made him vomit to see it or to see other people eating it. I don’t cook chicken here at home either. Going out to eat? NO ONE at the table can eat chicken. Seafood?? Not a chance….Steak or pork chops?? Not in this lifetime. And this isn’t some kind of thing he casually picked up on. It has been like this since he was old enough to eat real food…which didn’t occur until he was almost 3 years old because he did not like the texture of anything but strained baby food sweet potatoes and fruits. So Rob, I completely agree with you in saying that these kids WILL NOT eat when they get hungry enough. Period.