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Research needed for parents of Autistic children: Do they have any particular eating habits?

(13 Posts)
natm54 Sun 15-Jan-17 00:17:56


I'm currently a 2nd year 3D design student and within my new project I have decided to create a collection of tableware that can improve meal times for autistic children. I have began researching eating habits, restrictiveness, colours etc, but I am still at early days in my research so I would really appreciate some first hand knowledge from the parents themselves. smile

My initial idea is to create geometric shaped tableware that can seperate foods and allow parents to slowly introduce more foods by connecting the plates and creating a puzzle like layout. I will create this in a safe, non breakable, machine washable material. With these plates, I will create a tray that they can slot into, so the child is not restricted to eating at the table. Also contemplating making a selection of utensils that can change the texture of their food if necessary.

What I wanted to ask, along with any other input you may have is:

Are colours important to your child, how do they feel about bright block colours in comparison to subtle colours? Should my colours for these plates be in the same tones or contrast?

Is your child restrictive with their eating, if so how? Do you find they only eat certain food groups?

Is presentation important when eating, does food have to be laid out seperately or can it be mixed?

When at meal times with your child/children, what do you feel that they or yourself struggles with the most? Is there anything in particular that would improve this time?

And lastly, do you feel like this product would help meal time, and the possibility of introducing more food groups into their diet?

Of course I am aware every child is unique in their own way, but picking up on any similarities will help me put together my product as I will only have time to create a few prototypes.

Thank you for your time,
All feedback is greatly appreciated!

Mumof4rascals Sun 15-Jan-17 00:53:55

What a lovely idea. I have 2 boys with ASD. Up until recently my 10 year old would only eat food from his own special plate and using his own cutlery that no one else could touch. He didn't like his food to touch at all. This has recently changed and he is now more flexible. He mostly eats the same as the rest of the family and will eat school dinners.

My younger son who is 8 has always had a very restricted diet. He loves pizza, burgers, chips, bread, nutella, cucumber, yoghurts and coco pops. He will now eat spaghetti bolognaise and sweetcorn. He likes his food to be served on the same blue plate and from the same blue cup. He has the same packed lunch every day and will not eat school dinners. I cook a separate meal for him as he rarely eats what the rest of the family does. There is small signs of improvement as he has started to eat lean steak and boiled new potatoes.

Dinner time can be stressful with 2 ASD children. They are so different and at completely different ends of the spectrum so I tend to feed my youngest first and then my 10 year old son will eat with the rest of the family. This helps to keep everyone calm and sane!, well almost.

I don,t know if that will help. Good luck!

coffeemachine Sun 15-Jan-17 08:28:42

this is a parent/carer support forum not a research site.

Mumsnet has a subsection for these kind of things, maybe get it moved?

PolterGoose Sun 15-Jan-17 08:31:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

OneInEight Sun 15-Jan-17 08:38:14

I normally get irritated by students asking for information but this looks to be an interesting idea.

My two don't like different foods touching, mainly so unliked food does not contaminate nice food I think, so divided plates might be a solution. ds1 does not like messy food - issue at school in choosing food when he is at the end of the serving.

There would be high risk of major meltdown if they had got use to the plate and one bit had got broken / missing. Could you market in parts rather than a complete unit.

Mine are not that bothered by colour but prefer familiarity. They have more of an issue about shape (ds1 dislikes cups that are too curvy making it more difficult to drink for instance). They are quite clumsy (milk gets spilt every time ds1 uses the carton) so divisions would have to be created to minimise spillage to work.

Have you thought about noise. ds2 often says we are too noisy eating and part is the cutlery noise on the plate.

Our whole family is pretty fussy with respect to food. The main thing the ds's dislike is sauces (fear what they are hiding I think). For me it is texture. For ds2 it is smell and fear to try new things.

Good luck.

natm54 Sun 15-Jan-17 08:56:56

Honestly I apologise for anyone I have annoyed by putting this here, I wasn't aware of a sub section and I'll try to get it moved.

I just think it's very important to my research that I find out first hand what the parents need and how I can cater best for autistic children. With my design work I want to help people and improve quality of life with all my projects, but I need to be as educated on the person/situation as I can before I do this. I don't at all mean to be intrusive, but there is no point me assuming what these children want and need because I have no personal experience with autism, nor does anyone in my family.

Thank you all for your helpful responses so far, I'll definitely take all that into consideration! smile

zzzzz Sun 15-Jan-17 11:14:00

I don't think you are really understanding what the issue is with you posting on a support board is. It isn't that contact with your end client and an understanding of their needs isn't admirable and necessary, it's where you've chosen to do it. Would you for example pop into the waiting room at a bereavement councillors office to ask bereaved people about their experiences? Would you pop into the labour ward and ask patients to share how uncomfortable their stitches are?

Of course you wouldn't. That's why we have a section for research on MN and different sections for support.

You need to think first of the people you are seeking to help and then approach your project. (Nb you might just as well ask what colour our children's eyes are or what their initials are, as ask what colours/textures they like grinshock. They are all people with as much diversity as your friends and family)

user1483945709 Sun 15-Jan-17 11:21:27

I think colour of plates and design could be important. Bearing in mind that it isn't just little kids who have eating difficulties. My teen wouldn't want to eat from brightly coloured plates, it would find it 'babyish'.

Also that those with eating difficulties, probably already feel 'different' from their peers and family, as they are not eating what others eat.

So maybe a colour, design etc same as possibly to usually plates.

In terms of food, ds eats beige food, no food touching, no mixed textures, no sloppy.

zzzzz Sun 15-Jan-17 16:35:36

Colour and design of crockery is a matter of personal preference.

user1483945709 Sun 15-Jan-17 16:58:13

Totally agree, I was speaking on behalf of my child's preferences

zzzzz Sun 15-Jan-17 18:37:51

Sorry I wasn't clear, what I meant was all members of society have preferences on what their clothes/crockery/stuff looks like.

tartanterror Sun 15-Jan-17 20:21:30

You could also try the Facebook group Mealtime Hostage

natm54 Mon 16-Jan-17 00:14:32

Just had a browse, there's some really useful information on there so thank you!

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