Children with Autism are quite prone to eating disorders. They might refuse certain foods or eat less. They might also eat too much and face digestive problems. Diet is one of the most important things that you need to keep in check with your child.
Meals can be an extremely stressful time for your child. There can be many stressors including the bright kitchen lights or different dishes. They might also refuse to chew or move their muscles. Some medications can also hamper your child’s appetite.
- Sensitivity to Food: Children with autism can be sensitive to taste, smell, colour and even texture of food. This can make them avoid some food or limit their choice of food. They might even dislike a whole food group because of this. Children with autism usually dislike food that has string flavours, or vegetables and fruits with slippery textures.
- Eating Limited Food: Children with autism often have issues focusing on just one task for a long time. They will find it hard to sit and eat their food from start to finish.
- Constipations: Children with autism also suffer from frequent constipation. This can be because of limited food choices, lack of exercise, and medications. You can solve this by increasing fibrous food like milk, cereals, fluids, and exercise.
- Medications: some medications can affect the appetite of children. In such cases, you need to consult your doctor for alternative medications.
With so many stressors, meals can become hard for both the parent and the child. Parents are also often confused about what kind of food or diet their child should have:
Food That Can Help Children With Autism
Vitamins and Minerals
Multivitamins: Many doctors ask children with autism to take multivitamins in their diet. This helps to improve sleeping issues and digestive disorders. Sleeping issues and digestive disorders are quite common in children with autism. However, ensure that the multivitamin doesn’t have iron, as that can cause problems for your child. Try and include multivitamins in your child’s diet regularly.
Iron: Children with autism usually have low iron. This is mainly because they are fussy eaters. Make sure you check the iron levels of your child regularly. You can give iron supplements to your child only if it is low. You should also include dates, and green left vegetables in their diet to maintain good iron levels.
Vitamin B6: According to research Vitamin B6 has helped in reducing some symptoms of children with autism. While there is not much research on this, you should consult your doctor before feeding it to your child.
No Gluten And Dairy Diet
Gluten is the main component in wheat or other grains. Casein is the main protein in milk, cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. Often children with autism have a hard time digesting gluten and dairy products. However, this a gluten and dairy diet is extremely beneficial for children with autism. It has often been linked with helping to reduce some autism symptoms. But, if your child starts having digestive problems then take gluten and dairy off the diet completely.
Autism children are very resistant to change. You might not be able to put your child on a special diet. It is also not recommended. It can be expensive and have limited varieties. On a special diet, children with autism might also not get the nutrients that they require.
If you still think that your child needs a special diet then:
Speak to the doctor: You need to talk to your child’s doctor before you change anything in their diet. Check if your child is low on certain nutrients, only then think of putting your child with autism on a special diet.
Talk to a nutritionist: Consult nutrition and discuss all the pros and cons of the special diet. They will then suggest a properly balanced diet that will cover your concerns as well
How Can I Make Meals Easier And Healthier For My Child?
Children with autism are extremely selective about their food. They might not eat certain food only because of how they smell, look, or because of its texture. It can be hard for you to make your child eat new foods.
The best way to tackle this is by letting them pick. Take your child to the grocery store and let them choose the food. This will also help them learn a few basic life skills and social skills. Once you are home, sit with your child, and look on the internet about possible ways of preparing the said food. This was your child with autism will start to get familiar with the food. Your child still might not eat it when it is prepared. However, it will teach them to get familiar and positively open their minds.
Make It A Routine
Children with autism like to follow a rigid set routine. You need to make a mealtime routine with set timings. Make sure your child eats at the same time every day in the same setting. Make the meals are familiar and predictable as possible. You can also try thinking about other stressors that your child with autism might have. Dim the kitchen lights, or play some soothing music to calm their nerves. You can also let your child choose a favorite seating spot during meals. Ensure that no one else sits there. Routine is important for children with autism. So, respect that and follow strict settings and timings each day.
While meals children with autism can be a stressful time, with these effective strategies you can help them relieve that stress. You can also try and make mealtime more enjoyable. Have meals together as a family and listen to some music. This will make it a more pleasurable and soothing time for your child with autism.