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Picky Eaters: How to Expand and Diversify their Diets!

Posted Nov 12 2012 6:18am

I've been watching in awe as my cousin raises her adorable son who has autism.  My aunt recommended I talk to her about dealing with food behavior and kids who have autism. Instead, I thought it would be better for Angela to write the post for me!  And, don't forget we've posted our meal ideas for this week, on the meal plan page. Here is Angela's post:

I am mom of a 3 year old with autism. I am sure all mom's of toddlers can relate, that toddlers are very picky eaters. Adding on the Autism tends to intensify all normal toddler issues including those relating to food. Autism moms often deal with rigid behaviors, inflexible opinions on textures/colors/ temperatures of food, poor communication, tantrums... and as a result, many children with Autism have a very limited diet.

My son, Colton, was one of those extremely picky eaters, and at one point last year he was only eating meatballs (cut in the same way) and toast for dinner. That's it! I was DETERMINED to expand his diet and get him eating healthy. 

Here is the basic plan my son's psychologist and I came up with to help improve his eating. 

  1. Start small (start where they can be successful): If your child will only eat meatballs and toast, then start with a meal of just meatballs and toast.
  2. Build on your success by gradually expanding: Take that meal of meatballs and toast, and then in the subsequent days, switch it up slightly -- using parmesan toast instead, next changing the sauce on the meatballs, next adding spaghetti, next changing the pasta...etc.
  3. Add in easy new foods: I like to give Colton 3 things I know he'll eat, and then have something new (but that he'd probably like) on his plate. I just ask him to try a bite or two...and that's it. The next night, you can have him try MORE bites of that new food...always slowly building.
  4. Be patient and follow though!!!: This is super important. This change doesn't happen overnight. We had two straight weeks of major tantrums (this is typical), then he got it that we weren't going to budge...and hasn't had an issue since. If you say "You need two bites"...make sure they eventually eat those two bites.
  5. POSITIVELY reinforce: This is huge. Colton always has something he is "working for" during dinner. He earns his tokens on a token board for good eating/ taking so many bites. Once he's earned his tokens during the meal, he gets his reward (dessert/book/activity). Everything I do with Colton is positive, I never yell or lose my temper. Give lots of praise and positive attention for good eating, and not much attention or neutral attention for the negative eating or tantrums. 

And where are we now? Colton is an excellent eater, and just as importantly, dinnertime is now something we actually enjoy together as a family. Colton will now will try anything I have on his plate, eats tons of fruits and vegetables, and eats without tantrums. In fact, his favorite thing to eat is spinach dipped in dressing! 

Good luck with your picky eaters! Remember, behavior and eating habits can be changed. It just takes some planning, patience and follow through :) 

You can visit my blog here  http://familyofroses.blogspot.com/


If you have a personal "Picky Eater success" story, we'd love to share it with other parents struggling! Contact us to share it!

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