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Food issues and ASD or SPD(14 Posts)
Looking for some tips and strategies. My DS is nearly 3, and has always had a tempestuous relationship with food. He started on solids pretty late (8 months plus) and since then, nearly every meal time has included either a full on 45 minute meltdown, or crying and whining. He is very limited in what he will eat, seems to have problems with certain textures and temperatures (hates jelly and will only sometimes eat ice cream, for example). I'm at a loss how to handle it, but am sick of mealtimes being such a struggle. We've started to be firmer with him - giving him a time out if he messes about too much, but I am worried about him developing an unhealthy relationship with food. I have ASD, and was very anxious about food as a child, and had a lot of issues, because I was forced (so to speak, never physically) to eat stuff I didn't like. He gets so upset, but doesn't even try to tell us what is going on.
This is the only trait he has - he is social, confident, affectionate, although he is also very clumsy. Oh, actually, he also has always had insane night terrors, that seem to then become meltdowns. He's having them less often now though, it used to be every night for a long time. So, just the sleep and food then!
Like I say, not expecting an online diagnosis, but some tricks to survive meals would be much appreciated!
Feed him things he likes. I spent too much time stressing about this with ds. It didn't help! Also look at ways to maximise nutrition in the things he will eat.
What does he eat? Lots of us here have children with very restricted diets, and they're growing, learning and thriving
He eats familiar beige carbs. So, bread, potato waffles, tortilla wraps. I make pancakes using sweet potato, and sneak stuff in that way. But, in all honesty, sometimes he will have a complete freak out even when it is something that he will eat. Then, once we have managed to calm him down, he will sit down and eat. I just don't know what it is that's setting him off each time!
I second feed him what he will eat. Take the stress away from meals times, and come back to it later and slowly introduce a new food every so often, and reward trying the new food (even if he spits it out) sometimes just putting it in their mouth is a big battle for them.
I guess the question is trying to figure out what it is about food that is the issue. And why they are doing it.
I have 3, each with their own food issues.
Dc1 won't have things mixed, or things that aren't the texture they're supposed to be (melted cheese for example. But will try most foods now.
Dc2. Has a mostly carb based diet. Not issues with mixing or textures. Just eats the same things all the time.
Will not eat a roast dinner. And won't even consider a hot meal in the middle of the day. Dc2 will turn meals into a battle, the eat or go without doesn't work, as dc2 would rather go without. (I tried it once under hv advice
last time I listened to a hv.) I cracked before dc2 did, --and we are taking days--)
Dc3, issue with textures, struggles with chewing and swallowing. Which is possibly slightly like dysphasia. Has a huge fear of certain textures and certain foods, and he will vomit if it even touches his tongue. Won't eat mashed potato, but will if it's baked and mixed with melted cheese -different texture that way. dc3 is under the dietitian and on their advice of modifying what he will eat (like the breads with added stuff, or fortified cereals, plus a vitamin supplement, etc.) considering how little he was eating, he's now eating a couple more things, and more of what he does like to eat.
Does he only eat beige carbs though? what would he have on toast or in a sandwich?
Sometimes associations are made so breaking habits can help. When ds was particularly tricky with food he would eat in front of a film so I'd make him a mini buffet on a divided plate and he'd eat in the lounge. Other things we've done are a picnic rug in the lounge, eating in a tent, eating while sitting at or on the worktop while I'm cooking, anything novel which feels different.
Ds has big sensory problems so eating when we eat is just too much for him, apart from breakfast, so he tends to have separate meal times as well as different food.
He will always eat tortilla wraps, usually with honey, but will also eat them plain. He will nearly always eat crisps, bread, sausages, ham, fried sweet potato, pancakes, cake, chocolate, baked beans, cornflakes, porridge. He will sometimes eat banana, apple, jelly sweets, ice cream.
There's some really useful advice here, so thank you for the comments. He often wants to sit on my or my husband's lap when eating, and would always prefer to eat in the other room, although that could be to do with his tv obsession! My husband thinks we need to get really firm with him, but I am not sure that is a good idea. Funny thing is that I was much firmer with my daughter about food (who I do think has ASD), because it was never a problem with her. If she is being fussy, it's only because she is holding out for something better - she is utterly food obsessed!
I think he's eating a pretty good variety of foods. What can happen if you start pushing and being strict is that you risk him stopping eating things he likes or 'sort of likes but won't always eat'.
My DD (3, HFA) is a fussy, restricted eater majoring in carbs. She will only put something in her mouth if she wants to. We've had some success by being very relaxed and not forcing her to eat anything. She almost always is given the same as us, but we may present it differently e.g. No sauce on top, mashed potato rather than baked potato. We always make sure there is at least one thing she will eat. We've had some success by giving her a yogurt at the start of a meal. Quite often she will eat that and then eat (some of) the main meal. She has started eating pasta this way. We've also had some success by explaining what the food is e.g. Crispy roast potatoes are like crisps, scrambled egg is like the egg in egg fried rice. Anything remotely chocolate goes in!
I find it frustrating, but the best thing for me is to not stress over it. She eats a reasonable spread of food overall, and hopefully will broaden her range over time, or at least be more open to trying things.
It's not so much the restricted diet that bothers me (although it's always hard to lose the guilt over that), but more how to deal with mealtimes in general. For example, I can ask him what he wants, give it to him, and then he will start screaming and not tell me why. My husband is inclined to think that this is just normal toddler naughtiness, but I am not sure. Once he is upset, it is very hard to calm him down, although sometimes he suddenly snaps out of it, goes back to his normal, happy self, and eats whatever it was that set him off. He definitely has meltdowns - when he is in one, you can't distract him out of it, in fact, trying to offer him anything - even sweets or cake - will make it worse. He also wouldn't stop if you left them room, and once one has finished, if you upset him again soon afterwards, he will go right back into it.
I think I will talk to my husband about trying some of the stuff mentioned here. He is worried that we will be giving him bad habits, and that he is 'playing us', but I genuinely think he is distressed.
That's a really good point Flossie, when a child is hungry is perhaps the worst time to try to encourage them to eat a new food. We do an occasional food tasting session, not at a mealtime, presenting several types of a thing (most recently we did meat and then cereal bars) and then each scoring them across the senses (how does it look/smell/sound? comes before how does it feel/taste?)
I would just offer a little bit of several things and not stress. I remember watching a TV thing with a food refusing child and the parents just couldn't stop themselves encouraging and cajoling, sometimes it's better to say and do nothing. And let him have a toy or book at the table too.
The hungry thing is a good point though - I have wondered this before. Breakfast tends to be pretty rough, and dinner can also be difficult, probably because he is so tired. Maybe he's just not eating enough in the evenings and waking up hungry. Starting off with a yogurt is a great idea.
Not being able to tell you what he wants as he is only 3 might just be a communication thing. It doesn't mean he is being difficult or naughty....it may just mean he has trouble telling you why, or doesn't know why, he doesn't want to eat.
My DS 11 has been a very selective eater from weaning and the paediatric dietician specifically said how well we were doing by not telling him off or forcing him to eat at meal times.
As soon as we took away the "just two more mouthfuls" approach and realised that it was much, much more than him being fussy or naughty, things improved slightly.
It might be that your DS has a very sensitive mouth so cannot tolerate textures and temps in his mouth. Find out what he can tolerate and give him those.
Sadly, there is very little help, from what we've seen, given to parents of children who are underweight, compared to those that are overweight.
The private consultant who diagnosed DS with HF ASD said she had never seen a child with SPD that didn't have some form of ASD. Obviously I'm not trying to diagnose your child but food is something they can have at least some control over and a lot of children with ASD do find life easier if they're able to control the situations they are in.
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