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Mealtime Challenges

Sep 19, 2022

Whether you’re struggling with grabbing, messy eating, pouring drinks independently, or washing hands and face after eating, choose only one goal to start. Starting slow doesn’t mean that you give up on the others. You can add more goals after your child is learning the new skill you’re focusing on.

Mealtimes can be a hard time to work on skills. So do it when you have the time and patience. Rush time is not a good time to begin working on particular skills. Breakfast on a school day is probably not a good first choice. Start with dinner if it means that you’ll be more available and not pressured for time. When dinner is looking good, you can then transfer the skills to another mealtime, and eventually even work on it at breakfast on school days.

Does your child’s face tell the story of his meal? You are not alone! Messy eating is a common issue, and it’s important to teach socially acceptable eating habits, to enable him to integrate with others in the community. Ideas that others have found helpful include cutting the food to smaller pieces, teaching appropriate utensil use, and using a napkin to wipe his face at different times during the meal.

Does your child only like toast, dry cheerios and goldfish crackers? Is he sensitive to different textures? Does he avoid all vegetables? Recent research studies show that children with autism are five times more likely to have mealtime challenges, including narrow food selections. Although it is sometimes overlooked, It is important to rule out gastrointestinal issues before focusing on expanding your child’s diet. If all is well, you can work to expand one food at a time. Start small. Teach your child to take a “No thank you bite”, which includes tasting the food (a really small amount so that the taste is not significant), then saying, “No, thank you” and appropriately requesting out. It is important to be patient and persistent with this issue, and choose this as your primary goal. If other things are more important right now, like dangerous behaviors, you may want to tackle those first before working toward an expanded diet.