Why it’s so hard to keep my kids with #Autism and #SPD fed

This issomething I’ve been meaning to talk about but haven’t gotten around to it. I know many of you parenting kids with Autism and or sensory processing disorder will be able to relate to this. 

I’m talking about how difficult it can be to feed my kids. 

This is one of those things that unless you’re experiencing it, it’s extremely difficult to wrap your head around because instinct tells us that if the child is really hungry, they’ll eat. In more typical cases, that may apply but in cases of Autism and SPD, this does not apply. 

When it comes to my family, there are numerous reasons why feeding my kids is very difficult to do. 
These reasons are all intertwined, tangled and knotted up together. It’s very challenging to try and separate any of them because they so heavily impact each other.  

Here’s a list of the basic reasons:

  1. Very limited grocery budget
  2. Significant sensory related food proclivities 
  3. Generalization 

The first reason is pretty self-explanatory. My family is not cash rich in any sense of the word. As a 24/7 caregiver to my oldest, I’ve not been able to work outside of the house in a long time. It’s a necessary evil that I know many people don’t quite understand. 

As a result, our main income is disability from our oldest and youngest. Anything that is brought in from this site (adsense, donations or ad space), goes directly to our grocery budget. Sometimes it really helps and other times, not so much but it is what it is..

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This is where things all become tangled. 

My kids will only eat certain foods. It’s not because they’re trying to be difficult or are not hungry enough to eat what’s being offered. 

The reality is that their pickiness is a direct result of the way their brain interprets sensory information. Things like taste, texture, color, presentation, smell, shape or even a change in packaging are all reasons they will not eat a food item. 

As complicated as this whole sensory thing is, it’s also really simple. They will not eat anything that is offensive to their senses. 

Here’s a classic example:

My youngest is by far the most impacted by sensory issues and for the longest time, would only eat Tyson chicken nuggets. One day a couple years back, Tyson decided to change the packaging for Emmett’s favorite chicken nuggets. That was the end of his relationship with store bought chicken nuggets. 

Even though the chicken nuggets remained the same, the fact that the packaging changed meant that they were different chicken nuggets. 

We’ve even seen cases where Emmett can taste a difference between chicken nuggets from different bags. If there were two nuggests left in a bag and we had to open a new bag (same brand and packaging) to finish making his meal, he could actually taste the difference between the ones from the old bag and those from the newly opened bag. The ones that tasted different, were never eaten because something goes was wrong with them. 

This is all 100% true and extremely difficult to manage. 

When we spend the bulk of our budget on food that the boys should be okay with, we can often run into situations where they will no longer eat a food they previously did and there’s no rhyme or reason to it.  

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They aren’t trying to be difficult but to them, something has changed and a food is no longer palatable. There’s absolutely no point in trying to work through it either. All we can do is move on and try to find something else. 

Another issue we run into all the time is that I will have to make, remake and even re-remake a meal because according to my kids, it tastes funny. On an average day for an average meal, I will cook several different meals in order to accommodate these needs and insure everyone eats. It’s also common that I will have to recook all or some of them, multiple times to fix perceived issues that make the food offensive to my kids. 

Sometimes it’s as simple as two different food items have touched or that not all the food items look the same (think chicken nuggests not all being the same shape). The only way to overcome this is to start over completely. There’s no other way around it. 

I learned the hard way that if I didn’t actually remake it but instead fixed what I thought was the issue, they could tell and it would backfire in spectacular fashion. 

In regards to generalization, it ties right into this.

If for some reason, something doesn’t go over well the first time, they will never give it a second chance. This is because it’s assumed that because it was a certain way once, it will always be the same.  

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Let’s say they eat a cookie for the first time and it happens to be stale. They will never again try that same type of cookie.  

All of these things are intertwined because when you have a very limited budget, anything that gets wasted really hurts. If you purchase something that doesn’t go overwell, it’s simply a loss. We can’t always afford to just go back to the grocery store and try again. 

This is a very real problem and one that weighs very heavy on me as a provider. 

It’s very frustrating and very defeating. 

This is important to both know and understand because kids with Autism and or sensory processing disorder are not trying to be difficult. In truth, it’s probably way more frustrating and painful for them because they will literally go hungry before eating something that is sensory offensive. 

The best analogy I can come up with is this:

Expecting a child with Autism or Sensory Processing Disorder to eat a food that is offensive to their senses would be like asking you to eat a cat turd out of the litter box. 

As ridiculous as that sounds, you would probably go hungry before ever even thinking about eating a cat turd.  It’s a similar thing when it comes to sensory kids eating something that doesn’t look, smell, taste or feel right to their senses… 

If you can relate, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. I’m also happy to answer any question you may have about this particular issue. I’m always open to new ideas or trying something that may have worked for you… ☺