I need the help of wise Mumsnetters...my son's eating is out of control.

(38 Posts)
JakeBullet Sat 20-Apr-13 08:56:23

Less an AIBU and more of a WWYD to be honest.

I could also post this in the SN section but knowing many non SN children can be big eaters too I thought I'd get advice from a wide section of people.

My son is 10 and autistic, I say that first because there are definite issues causing some of his problems.

Unlike many autistic children who are faddy eaters, my DS is a fantastic eater. People are amazed that he eats such a variety of foods and veggies are his first love. The child thinks he has a treat if I do sprouts with dinner grin, I mean, what kid LOVES sprouts?

However, over the past few years his eating has become more and more of a problem. He literally raids the cupboards and fridge and its becoming more and more problematic.

I have stopped buying certain things because we just cant have them in the house. So no multipacks of crisps (which aren't good for him anyway), no biscuits etc. However, he will then move to sliced bread, blocks of cheese, (I once found an Edam rind in is room after I went to the fridge to cut some and found it gone...a whole wedge of Edam), dried pasta....which he will literally sit and crunch. It seems to be a habit and boredom thing. He is also really good at getting in the kitchen while I am otherwise occupied by, for example putting washing away or having a bath. He doesn't sleep well so trying to do these things when he is in bed is a non starter although I do try and do most things while he is at school.

So I stopped buying pasta but continued buying bread as it was needed for packed lunches. He has left this alone this week but now it's milk, and especially since I started using our local milkman. I get four bottles of milk a week and am now starting to notice these being drained. This morning I went to the fridge to get the milk out for a coffee to find an empty bottle of milk and an empty two pint bottle which I had bought on one of our "non milk delivery" days two days ago.

Now I can cancel the milkman...that is not a problem to me but honest to God I am thinking about locks for the kitchen cupboards. The kitchen has no door so cannot lock the kitchen!

Obviously this is costing me a fortune and at the moment I am on benefits so don't have a huge budget for shopping. I generally do manage well as I cook from scratch etc.

The othr issue is that DS is now putting on weight, and is in the obese category when he is weighed and measured. People say "oh he's just stocky", but no he isn't "just stocky" he is overweight. We have just started a MEND course to try and increase his activity levels. He has a trampoline in the garden but at the moment has a fear of motorbikes going past outside so wont use it <bangs head on wall>.

So apart from cancelling the milkman, buying cupboard and fridge locks, adding bread and cheese to the "no pasta" list, is there anything else I could be doing?

I am sorting out a social story to try and explain why he cannot eat like this. DS doesn't always "get" things so it needs repetition.

Is there anyway you can deal with his behaviour at the source? Ie. talk to him about it. You say he has autism and I'm afraid I don't know much about it to be able to understand his limitations but have you tried dealing with him personally?

Tbh, locks on the cupboards may be the quickest option as unfortunate as that willbe

Sorry, I missed the last bit of your post. blush definitely do try to make him understand though

Katienana Sat 20-Apr-13 09:02:46

Shoot me down in flames, but could.chewing gum help keep his mouth busy? Hope someone with more experience comes along soon x

BastardDog Sat 20-Apr-13 09:09:27

How about a snack box. A box that you fill with items that he is free to choose from and eat whenever he wishes. You could make the snacks in it mostly healthy. He might feel it satisfies his desire to eat as well as perhaps his need to sneak and take things. (Not meant in a nasty way). But that means him complying with your instructions that other stuff in the kitchen is off limits.

How tall is he? Could you hide some stuff high up, like the back of the top shelves or even on top of the wall cupboards. I know people who have resorted to hiding food from kids behind the kitchen cupboard kick boards.

Get him involved in menu planning, creating shopping lists?

If all else fails I would put a lock on a cupboard as a last resort.

ApocalypseThen Sat 20-Apr-13 09:09:59

I can only suggest talking to your GP. Is there any chance he has a hormone problem?

no advice i'm afraid, we have 4 children in the family with Autism and theyre all compulsive eaters, recently caught dd sneaking upstairs with a 12 pack of mini magnums intending to scoff the lot and more than once 12 cans of coke have been drunk one after the other.

Luckily dd isnt overweight but ds is at top end of his bmi, a lot of this is because we make them walk for miles each day. Id just lock doors tbh, you won't stop him doing it as it's a sensory thing.

Shellywelly1973 Sat 20-Apr-13 09:24:27

Op...your post is so familiar. My Ds has ASD & ADHD. He eats non stop. Unlike your son he eats a small amount of food but large volumes.

He's 8 &in the holidays has put lot of weight on as he hardly leaves the house. I think in the problem here is sensory, you mentioned the dry pasta-same here.

Do or could you access O.T?
Try the locks but i know my Ds would just bang the cupboard door until he got in!
Social story is a good idea.
The idea of the box is great,will be trying that here.
Daily shopping.

Finally accepting that there are certain aspects of ASD we can only manage as parents & not totally control.

Up the physical exercise as much as possible.

I approached many hcp's&school for suggestions, someone might have some advice or a tip to help manage the situation.

Good luck.

FarBetterNow Sat 20-Apr-13 09:28:08

I have no experience of autism, but a bit about food.

Raw carrots, celery, cabbage, apples, pears can be eaten without danger of putting on weight, though may cause digestion problems if eaten in great quantity.

Monosodium glutamate (Flavour enhancer additive in processed foods) can cause a feeling of hunger. Though I expect you avoid all food with msg in anyway.

Good Luck.

ChestyNut Sat 20-Apr-13 09:28:30

If its sensory would ice cubes to crunch be acceptable instead of the pasta?

Or perhaps unflavoured popcorn? There's no actual quantity to it as such until they add the salt etc so that may satisfy the sensory element?

The box sounds great but the only issue I see (and remember I have no idea what I'm talking about!) is that he may see a challenge and eat everything in the box all at once because he can, IYSWIM

JakeBullet Sat 20-Apr-13 09:37:57

Thank you all, some great suggestions here. Like the box idea and will try the same. Ice cubes I had forgotten, yes he will crunch those and has done since a small child. so will buy some ice cube bags. Carrot sticks he loves thankfully.

He belongs to a SN soccer team and is off for training this morning so at least I know he will have a massive run around and burn off some fat!

I just nod knowingly about the 12 pack of mini Magnums Apocalypse and DS would be exactly the same.

Don't crunch ice. Had craving for it in pregnancy and have had to spend lots at the dentist to repair all the damage the crunching did!

ChestyNut Sat 20-Apr-13 09:41:52

Would no entry signs on the cupboards help as a reminder?

CalamityKate Sat 20-Apr-13 09:43:55

I'm watching this thread with interest as my DS with Aspergers is a dustbin.

Like yours he's a fabulous eater. He'll try loads of stuff and yes he loves sprouts! smile

By Tuesday he's generally asking what we are having for the following Sunday dinner hmm

I always assumed his preoccupation with food, and his constant worry about where the next meal is coming from was inherited from me blush

elliejjtiny Sat 20-Apr-13 09:57:56

DS1 has autistic tendancies although not severe enough to actually have autism. He does the food thing too and because his teacher told the class that eating fruit and veg makes you stronger he now thinks that he will win at sports day if he eats enough satsumas hmm.

I know your DS is a lot more severe than mine but I find signs on the cupboards, fridge and freezer help remind my DS to stop and think. I was doing locks when he was younger but find he works them out after a few weeks. You could also try rearranging cupboards so that the non fridge things are in a different place to normal and put the milk in the freezer and defrost in smaller quantities.

themightyfandango Sat 20-Apr-13 10:00:40

I have a 9 year old with adhd/asd. This is a problem for us but in a slightly different way. He is a poor eater during the day (partly due to meds) but then becomes ravenous through the night, he is a poor sleeper anyway. He often takes things without my knowledge.

I have one of those boarding school tuck trunks with a lock for snack stuff. It's fridge stuff I have a problem with, mostly yoghurts, he can eat a packet in one sitting if he hasn't found anything else. Not found a solution to this yet (other than not buying yoghurt).

ChippingInLovesSpring Sat 20-Apr-13 10:10:10

Jake - I thought he was doing well with the low(er) carbing?

Have you tried talking to him about low carbing properly so he's not getting the carb cravings - I know with his autism it wont be the total answer - but maybe a good start.

I think, as Shelly said too, that it's probably one of those things you have to accept that you (and he quite probably) can't control & that all you can do is control the environment (lock the fridge/cupboards etc) I know other MNers & a friend in RL who (reluctantly) do it.

My cousin, when he was first boarding at college (he has asp) would eat all of his 'weeks' food by Tuesday then have nothing for the rest of the week (he had care so they sorted him out) and he had to be trained to make the food last... it took well over a year. It can be a very hard life sad

<hug>

JakeBullet Sat 20-Apr-13 10:22:34

I am so relieved to find I am not alone with this. Yes I might well discuss the lower carb foods with him as I honestly think that is an issue for him...carb based foods seem to make him worse.

OhMerGerd Sat 20-Apr-13 11:07:37

Yes watch the ice. I had a pica for years and literally chewed ice from morning till night. Teeth are shocking! May as well have been chewing stones. But celery gives a nice crunch smile

BastardDog Sat 20-Apr-13 11:10:34

I've done the box thing with my DD. yes, at first she did eat the entire contents of the box each day. I just replenished next day without comment. Gradually she ate less and less from the box until she stopped bothering with it.

It's not cured my dds food issues and I think she'll always struggle with a tendency towards compulsive eating, but it stopped what I called her endless scavenging.

LordEmsworth Sat 20-Apr-13 11:28:14

Have you established that it is not due to genuine hunger? ApocalypseThen mentioned the possibility of a hormone problem - if as you say "carb based foods seem to make him worse" then it could well be connected to how his body is responding to the insulin overload from the carbs. So his brain is getting the right signals from his body & thinks he's constantly hungry. I would at least talk to your GP...

I was going to suggest ice lollies made with squash and water, unless he crunches them, maybe not. Crunchy veg and a good idea, also what about making up bottles of squash and putting them in the fridge so he has something cold and tasty to occupy his mouth? It's not easy to deal with food addiction in an adult and with a child with ASD it will be harder. I think you need to replace things with alternatives that will occupy his mouth but not do too much harm or cost £££

badbride Sat 20-Apr-13 11:50:10

I'd definitely talk to your doctor about this--has your son had a detailed diagnosis of the causes of his SN? I ask this because there are a number of genetic conditions that trigger compulsive eating. One of these, Prader-Willi Syndrome, can co-occur with autism, see www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3261277/

I am not a doctor, so please don't take the above as any kind of medical advice! And I certainly don't want to worry you at all--just want to suggest that a trip to the doc would be an idea to rule out any biological cause for your son's eating behaviour.

The UK Prader-Willi Association www.pwsa.co.uk/ has advice on how to manage compulsive eating, which may be helpful for you (even if you son does not have the condition)

Itsjustapuppet Sat 20-Apr-13 11:52:19

I think Prader Willi (sp?) might be worth looking into. From what I can remember it is not unusual in children with autism.

Euphemia Sat 20-Apr-13 12:21:53

Could you have a visual menu plan on the fridge/cupboards so he understands what the food is for and that it is needed over the course of the week? I like the idea of "No Entry" signs on cupboards too.

jendot Sat 20-Apr-13 21:17:56

We have Abigail padlock on the snack cupboard. Envy thing he is not allowed to eat goes in the cupboard and access is only granted at certain times, I have to move the key about a lot!!!

jendot Sat 20-Apr-13 21:18:40

Stupid predictive text!
Abigail - a big
Envy- every

lisad123everybodydancenow Sat 20-Apr-13 21:23:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

foreverondiet Sat 20-Apr-13 21:55:40

I have 3 year old who only wants to eat snacks / dry cereal. We don't buy any crisps crackers snacks biscuits chocolate cakes ice cream or juice. Breakfast cereal kept high up (for older child might have to lock). Store cupboards contain dry rice / lentils / pasta so not appealing. Bread is in freezer take out as needed - could be locked up. Prepare loads of veg - cucumber carrots celery in fridge - make it the only thing he can get hands on. Cook pasta only as you need it. freeze any leftovers. Could you buy skimmed milk which at least is v low calorie? Or just keep small amounts in fridge - can defrost for each day's breakfast overnight and then no more for the day.

StiffyByng Sat 20-Apr-13 22:08:43

Sympathies. My stepdaughter has frontal lobe damage and as a result has no appetite satiety and an obsession with sweet things. She wants to eat constantly and can have violent meltdowns when denied. Luckily (in this context) she also has very limited mobility so is not capable of independently seeking food, but will for example snatch food from her toddler sister's hands or lie about not having eaten if she sees the opportunity. I would also encourage you to take this to a doctor. There are a few physical causes for the sort of eating you describe. It can be very hard to get people to take it seriously, rather than just thinking it's a typical kid after sweets or wanting to treat the poorly child with chocolate.

Letitsnow9 Sat 20-Apr-13 22:32:58

If its a sensory thing rather than hunger, would the chewy jewellery/t bars be any help?

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Sat 20-Apr-13 22:48:07

Is it a sensory thing? Would sugarfree gum help? Maybe he's stimming with food?

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Sat 20-Apr-13 22:48:28

x posts snow...smile

changeforthebetter Sat 20-Apr-13 22:58:42

What is a "social story"? DD1 is a scavenger. I keep no treat food around but she is obsessive about stealing food (even kids' vitamins) I think there may be some asp issues but we are just at the beginning of trying to get to the bottom of what is going is on for her. hmm

I'm sorry I know nothing of autism really. Is it possible that its acseistate issue? There is a medical condition that means someone never feels full. It would be worth seeing your dr. It's called prada willis syndrome of something. Apologise for the fact in no medical expert and I'm sorry if in other posts stuff had been mentioned my phone is on a go slow having trouble loading up.

FatherSpodoKomodo Sat 20-Apr-13 23:05:43

DS2 has Autism and will also eat anything and everything. Luckily we have not had too much of a problem with him taking stuff recently - he's quite rigid on rights and wrongs and knows that taking food without asking is wrong. For now!

I know people have mentioned chewing gum but be careful! DS2 doesn't realise it's not for eating. He will take it, chew at it, swallow and start again. He once sneaked a packet up to his room and ate the lot in 10 minutes! Then I noticed the bit that said "May have laxative effects" It didn't have much of an effect thankfully, but I did warn his teachers just in case!

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