A subject I see talked about a lot on social media, is autism and food. It seems a lot of autistic people, especially children, have a very limited diet. There are different reasons why this might be the case, and it can go to extremes. A few years ago whilst being shown around a school, myself and Natalie bumped into parents of another autistic child. We had a quick conversation where they told us, their 7 year old son would only eat baby food.
Thankfully we’ve never had a problem with Jack, who I often refer to as the human dustbin. He doesn’t like spicy food, but other than that he eats pretty much anything. Lily on the other hand, is a different story. Before she had her own autism diagnosis, her “fussy” eating was a major concern for us. Now we know she is autistic as well, and that this seems to be fairly common. We have been slowly trying to expand her diet. So I’m going to look at what she eats, and how we are trying to expand her diet.
What Lily Eats
Like most kids she’s more than happy eating sweets, chocolate, cake and crisps. There are limits though, nothing sour, no jelly babies, only homemade icing, and only ready salted and quavers and wotsits.
The one good thing is Lily likes her fruit and veg, she will eat most fruits, other than oranges and other citrus fruit. She loves peas, carrots, broccoli, sweet corn and potato. After that though things get more limited, here’s a quick list of what she will eat.
- Plain sausages
- cocktail sausages
- tinned beans & sausages
- chicken nuggets (refusing recently)
- boiled rice
- plain pasta
- white bread
- Cream crackers
- pepperoni pizza
- burger (only recently)
She will also eat a few different cereals, until recently the milk had to be in a separate cup. Everything has to be plain, she won’t have sauce on anything, other can ketchup and gravy as long as they are in a separate bowl and not on the plate. Compared to what I’ve heard from others that’s not a bad list. It has taken some time and effort to slowly introduce new foods, or sometimes like recently. Lily randomly asked for a burger when Jack and I were having some.
How to approach getting them to try new food
The way you approach getting your child to try new foods is very important, and that goes for any child not just an autistic one like Lily. I think we should be well past the days of, eat that or you’ll go hungry, that’ll teach them method. As my dad used to tell me, he was told by his dad. He half threatened that with me and my brother, but never followed it through.
When it comes to autism and food, you have to take the right approach. Just like with everything else with autism. The way we approach it with Lily, is the slow and steady approach. We always offer her everything that the rest of us have, and give her the choice to say yes or no. We get food in for her to try and offer it her. Only once, if she says no, leave it and try again another time. This has worked well with the fruit and vegetables. Keep showing her the foods and wait for her to become interested in them herself.
You never know what they are going to ask to try, I never expected her to ever want a burger. Just keep trying and it will take as long as it takes, Autism and food is not a subject that can be rushed. Getting Lily to learn to cook foods has also been helpful, she really enjoys it and it encourages her to touch different foods. Often it’s not the taste that’s the problem, if they won’t try it, how can it be? It’s the look, the feel and the texture of the food. Until recently I had to pick every last bit of cheese off of her pizza, before Lily would eat it. Now she eats the whole thing, perhaps making her own pizza helped with that? Click to see Lily’s pizza post!
Unfortunately like a lot of things with autistic children, there can be setbacks. Lily has visibly been finding things more difficult, the longer the current “lockdown” situation has gone on. As much as I’ve tried to keep her entertained, she struggles without her routine just like Jack does, and is missing her friends from school.
She has been saying she doesn’t know what she wants to eat a lot, and saying no to a lot of the things she’d normally eat. Thankfully pizza and roast potatoes and vegetables still always get a yes. I hope this is because of the anxiety and uncertainty of the current situation, and she will eventually go back to eating how she was.
We will have to see how that goes, taking the same approach as with new food. Offering it with no pressure, and letting her take her time. Are there any parents of autistic children in the same boat as us? Has the lockdown brought problems like this to the surface? And how have you been dealing with them? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. That’s all from me on autism and food, thanks for reading.