Removed autistic DS's ice cream... Advice welcome.

(7 Posts)
birdofthenorth Wed 24-Oct-12 19:02:54

DS is 10, has moderate autism. He takes an age to eat most meals (hours and hours). We have told him him that he only gets treats after meals if he eats all his main meal in a decent time -like less than an hour! Otherwise we find it impossible to get anything done and can't plan to go out after meals etc, and it also means when he is eating unsupervised within defined time limits like at school he only eats about a third of his food.

Tonight we began eating at 5:15 -a meal he enjoys of pizza, pasta and garlic bread. Notma huge portion. He began the meal by declaring he'd like his favourite flavour of ice cream afterwards if he ate it all. I agreed that would be a suitable treat for us all -DS, DD aged 2, and me. I asked that he eat his meal within 45 mins by 6 o'clock in order to qualify for ice cream. We are trying to help him with his understanding of time as well as the speed with which he does anything!

By 5:30 everyone else had finished. I served the ice cream into three bowls (obviously only a tiny portion for the two year old!); DD and I ate our's and I out DS's in front of him as an incentive to finish within the remaining 10 minutes before 6pm. He only had two slices of pizza left. At 6pm, DD had finished and got down, DS still had 1 and 3/4 slices of pizza left, dispute making a big show of hurrying (chomping fast etc), so he he obviously believed he was going quickly, even though no progress was being made. So I gave him ten additional minutes, and set the kitchen timer, explaining we had ten minutes left, and he had to finish, or the buzzer would go off and I'd have to to take his portion of ice cream away. I sat with him and encouraged big bites, kept telling him how many minutes were left etc. buzzer wen off, one whole slice left. We talked about what the buzzer meant and he understood it meant removal of the ice cream, and looked crestfallen. I caved in and gave him five more mins, same process, buzzer, encouragement, explanation of the consequences of not finishing. He still hadn't finished when the buzzer went off so I did indeed take the ice cream away, explain I was sad not to be able to give him his treat, but reiterated treats are for finishing meals in good time. I left him to finish in his own time and he finished about 18:40, asked what happens next and I said that's it, get down and wash hands, checking he was ok.

That was ten mins or so ago and he's been fine since, not asked for the ice cream, not sad, joining in the CBeebies bedtime story with his sis nicely. I feel very mean, but also that without black and white rules there will be no progress. And I don't see how I can treat someone for taking 25 minutes to eat one slice of pizza, so I had to follow through. Obviously not getting his ice cream out would have been less wasteful, but without visible insentives he really does take an age.

Does anyone with autistic DC's have any advice, on withholding treats, following through with consequences, or indeed on speeding up eating, or incentivising behaviour in general?! It would be much appreciated.

For context, he eats a pretty wide range of foods, getting wider every year, and is not nearly so fussy about eating as autistic support staff leads me to believe some kids are.

Sorry this is unnecessarily long!

birdofthenorth Wed 24-Oct-12 19:08:01

Sorry about all the errors!

Out =put
Dispute = despite
Staff = stuff

pregnant and tired

MrsCantSayAnything Wed 24-Oct-12 23:17:33

I don't believe food should ever be used in the context of reward or punishment....SN or not. I don't mean to upset you because I know a lot of people DO remove puddings as punishments....or incentives...but personally, I just don't think it's a good idea.

In my book, if you're a slow eater then that's what you are...you just eat slowly...finishing in "good time" is a misnomer...because it's so subjective.

Yes...others may want to leave the table....so let them...if everyone else has finished, but the slow eater has not...then they can finish alone...if they so desire.

If you have somewhere to go...and he has not finished, then you should (in my opinion) warn him..."if that's not eaten in the next ten minutes, you will have to leave it and have no time for pudding because we are going to X place."

Then he may or may not cotton on. But I really hate food being used or witheld as punishment.

eatyourveg Thu 25-Oct-12 12:44:47

ds2 (ASD MLD) used to have problems with food and school (SN) lent us the egg timers they used at school with him. If he managed to eat what we wanted him to eat within the required time (45 mins to begin with I think it was) then he could get down. It was never a whole meal maybe a small bowl of weetabix or something similar but he always had a yogurt there as an incentive. Took a long time (18 months+) and at the beginning for a few weeks his TAs at school took it in turns to come round at tea time to help but he gradually managed to eat a whole meal despite GOSH saying he would never take solids and all the talk of gastric tubes. Some 10 years later he still wants smaller portions and takes more time than anyone else but hey rather that than the countless hospital admissions we used to have.

Try these to help with the timing issue or this to get ideas from other parents who have been there done that. (ds is featured in it)

birdofthenorth Fri 26-Oct-12 09:49:02

Thanks very much eatyourveg, that's really helpful, both the shared experience and the links.

I take your point MrsCan't and may have a rethink. Although I think it is good preparation for any kind of functional adult life not to have to spend 6 hours plus consuming three small meals.

PolterGoose Sat 27-Oct-12 11:15:46

My ds has AS and we used to have similar issues, we started using a timer to time him and setting targets which he responded to, it got easier as he became more aware of time and could see that spending an eon eating meant less time to do other stuff. If your ds has a special interest maybe link a reward to this, not to food.

Is he actively eating for the whole time he is at the table? So, is he slow because he takes tiny bites and takes ages to chew and swallow? Or, is he faffing about not eating and a bit disinterested? Because I think you'd need a different tactic depending on his behaviour.

If it's the first he might actually have something physical that is slowing his eating, maybe low muscle tone around his mouth which means it is actually harder for him to eat, or sensory issues (which was ds's problem). If he is just faffing, then agree rules about meal times, have to take 3 good bites with no talking or something.

I'm another who doesn't do 'must eat main meal before pudding and pudding as a reward', I consider the pudding as part of the nutritive content of the whole meal, but then ds is a serious food refuser so puddings are a good source of calories and nutrients for him.

Sandrurris Fri 23-Nov-12 17:31:14

I have recently found this series on the internet where they discuss different issues related to autism. As I've started training as a special needs teacher it has been very useful, this episode in particular may have some useful advice for you.

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