Author Topic: autism and eating  (Read 1264 times)

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Offline mommytogabriel

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autism and eating
« on: May 17, 2016, 16:28:43 pm »
Hi Everyone!!

I was hoping someone could help me! My son has struggled with food from the moment he was born! As time went on we eventually got a diagnosis of autism and severe sensory processing disorder for my son. My challenge is he will NOT hold any food (or utensils) without a complete melt down. He will only touch food that are hard or crispy! I have run out of things to feed him and he is becoming more high needs in regards to his food. He will eat bread products, sometimes meat in a bread coating (though he wont chew properly and hoard the food in his mouth. He has been doing this for two years), soft plain omlettes, dry ravioli, pears, banana, crackers and plain pasta! Please can someone help!?
We are currently on a wait list for therapy for some help.

Offline deb

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Re: autism and eating
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2016, 16:38:20 pm »
Goodness, that sounds like quite a challenge. :( Where are you located (what country?), and how old is he? Can you tell us a bit more about what you've already tried? How long a wait for therapy? It sounds like some OT is needed, and the sooner the better. If you're in the US, you should be able to go through Infants & Toddlers (0-2YO) or Child Find (3-5YO) in your school district.

Offline mommytogabriel

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Re: autism and eating
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2016, 17:07:48 pm »
I live in ontario canada and he is 3 years old. We have tried aba specifically giving him a reward (physical or praise) when he eats. Works sometimes. Right now its about thinking or hard or crispy food.. its overwhelming :(

Offline deb

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Re: autism and eating
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2016, 17:10:13 pm »
Hmm....I'm not sure what's available in Canada, and for the life of me I can't remember who here would.... will see if I can hunt down someone who might know....

Offline deb

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Re: autism and eating
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2016, 17:18:14 pm »
OK, some Google results, don't know if you've been through this already....
http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/specialneeds/autism/ontario-autism-program.aspx

Wow, surprised at how few hits I'm getting for young kids.... I have a shout out to a therapist who used to be in Canada; will let you know if I hear back from her. Hopefully someone will hop in here first though.

Offline Martini~

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Re: autism and eating
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2016, 21:45:20 pm »
Isn't Heidi from Canada? I will send a short message to her, maybe she can help.
~Marta

Offline Tweakster

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Re: autism and eating
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2016, 00:47:08 am »
Many hugs to you.  Yes the waiting lists are quite long and often if your child is not failure to thrive, very hard to get without an official diagnosis.   Since you have the diagnosis, that is helpful. But even if you do get some help, it is typically very short-lived.  We waited 18 mths for OT support and were granted 4 sessions, 5 at my very stern pushing.  We are in Ontario also (GTA).  There's no help in the schools here so unfortunately that is not an option :(

My son has sensory processing disorder and is a complete and utter challenge to feed regularly...and he's 7 now.  He started reducing his foods at age 2 and they have never returned.  He sometimes gets into a hyperventilating situation at the table, he cries, he won't eat if there's nothing there he feels safe with.  He would rather not eat at all.  He has severe food jags where a food is acceptable then all of a sudden it isn't any longer.  It's easy to get really despondent over the situation and I fluctuate between being quite zen about it all to being so frustrated that he will never eat normally (by 'normally' I mean a balanced diet that does not regularly shift and change with food jags or does not create fear and anxiety when presented with food).

One thing I can recommend is the DOR - Division of Responsibility - method while you wait for help.  The number one thing to do for these kids is reduce the pressure and anxiety around food.  Kids who have sensory processing are often hypersensitive to input and overwhelmed by life in general, food is just another area this occurs.  The mouth is a sacred place to them, a place to control, and so to try to force stuff into it rarely works and can, in fact, have the opposite effect. 

I encourage you to read this website and, if you can, get the book from the library:
http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/

So the Division of Responsibility is this:
Quote (selected)
The Division of Responsibility for toddlers through adolescents

The parent is responsible for what, when, where.
The child is responsible for how much and whether.
Fundamental to parents’ jobs is trusting children to determine how much and whether to eat from what parents provide. When parents do their jobs with feeding, children do their jobs with eating:

Parents’ feeding jobs:

Choose and prepare the food.
Provide regular meals and snacks.
Make eating times pleasant.
Step-by-step, show children by example how to behave at family mealtime.
Be considerate of children’s lack of food experience without catering to likes and dislikes.
Not let children have food or beverages (except for water) between meal and snack times.
Let children grow up to get bodies that are right for them.

The basic premise is family meals and that all food is neutral.  You put the crunchy carbs in the same category as fresh fruit or meats or veg.  They are all simply food.  You make family meals that you would normally eat and would like your child exposed to.  Exposure is key.  But pressure is not.  So the food is left in separate bowls for the child to select what they want on their plate.  You give them a blank plate for the meal.  The table should have at least 1 safe food item that the child will normally eat.  You can rotate the safe foods served at meals if your child is ok with that.  My child has food jags so a safe food one day is not always readily accepted the following day.  It makes it trickier but not impossible.  You find that you will create a roster of foods that your son can enjoy while being exposed to all the other foods you hope that he will one day eat.  You don't cajole or convince or bribe him to eat any bites.  You simply put the food on the table and make it available for him to try.  Food is neutral, your reactions are neutral.  There is no praise or high fives for eating.  Food is there, it is his job to eat.  You do your job by eating yours and modeling how it's done.

Now this method does not always result in a change in eating habits but what it does is two things 1) creates a relaxing atmosphere at the table which is important so that food can be enjoyed and consumed as a family and 2) create repeated exposure to the foods that your family will normally enjoy.   Over time your child will learn how to eat family meals at a table, how to select foods and amounts, how to serve himself and, at his own pace, whether to try new things or not.  Over time I find that they are willing to try stuff.  Now that is not to say they will like it or swallow it or even eat it ever again, but the goal is not to increase the diet but to reduce anxiety so that an increased diet can potentially develop.  It can rarely develop in a place of pressure of anxiety and although your child may eat because they feel threatened or rewarded, they will not develop a good relationship with food.

The other important factor is portion size.  Portion sizes are often completely overstated and overserved, especially for kids.  For a resistant eater, this can be the straw that breaks the camel's back.  For my son, if he sees too much food on his plate, it's an instant shut down.  Even a preferred food can overwhelm his brain if there is too much of it.  So that is why the serving bowls are helpful.  They learn to regulate and take what they need to feel sated.   If there is a meal that cannot be served in bowls like that, then I would recommend that when you serve you serve a very small portion, take the portion you plan to serve and serve a quarter of that at first.  Let your son know that there are seconds after a brief waiting period.

For the motor and oral skills issues, you need OT input.  Is there any way to get some private OT while you wait?  Not cheap, about $110/hr but even 1 or 2 sessions can actually help you a lot for stuff you can work on at home.  They will show you things you can do with him to help the motor and oral sensory.  There are some OTs that will come into the home as well.  That can actually be helpful as sometimes kids do better in the clinics because they want to please...they are harder work at home :)

OT can help with eating as well, though we have worked with 3 different ones and almost all their methods involve pressure in some way.  For some kids, like mine, this just does not fly.  The more pressure, the more resistant and shut down he becomes.  So I only caution you to tread carefully on that one, if you find a good OT and he/she is able to work on this without creating anxiety, then you should be good to go.  It is very child dependent at that level.

PM me if you want any additional information.  I'm not an OT or anything like that but we have been living this journey for 7 years now so I understand what you are going through with the food situation.


The tweaking never stops!

Offline Erin M

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Re: autism and eating
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2016, 03:20:47 am »
Dh's cousin is on the spectrum and ate nothing but eggo waffles, Cheerios, and something else...peanut butter maybe? for 2 years.  He does eat more now (in his early twenties now!).  Dh's aunt said it was awful.  I don't have any new advice (the OT should be able to help when you get there) but wanted to let you know you're not alone. 

Offline MasynSpencerElliotte

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Re: autism and eating
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2016, 05:15:14 am »
DD2 is on the spectrum and she had a very self limited diet for years (she was dairy and gluten free as well so that cut out a lot of options). For her it was more texture/touch issues and unwillingness to try new things ever. She also had a few choking incidents as a toddler which turned her off some foods.

We did ABA for other reasons but never for food so I am not sure how that would apply. We ended up doing similar to the DoR method without actually knowing what it was. OT was not a huge help for us either as she would not have anything to do with them - they gave me a lot of ideas and info to apply to our situation a least.

I have to say it took (and still takes) months and even years of putting the same food on her plate and having it rejected time and again before she will even touch it to her tongue. She also used to have aversions to frozen food (yeah no popsicle after her tonsillectomy - she wanted warm milk :P).

Heidi




Offline Hedgehog17

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Re: autism and eating
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2016, 06:19:21 am »
Hugs  :-*

Very similar situation here  :( I went through hell over DS's eating as a baby and toddler, then more hell as a young child. He got his diagnosis almost a year ago, which helped me to understand why his eating wasn't normal!

At 5yo he started to feel hunger and got more interested in food, expanded his range a bit, and started eating bigger portions. I had taken the pressure off by feeding him and allowing meals on the sofa watching tv - it was the best way to get his body used to more food, different textures, mixed textures  :)

He is also hypermobile and using cutlery was beyond him until very recently - his skills are delayed by about 2.5 years - but now he is able to use a knife and fork to cut food up  ;D He still uses a spoon poorly but I'll take any small success!

The main thing I've learned is to drop your expectations, and to let them learn to eat at their pace (which will be delayed). DS still eats mushed up fruit pouches from the baby food section as he won't eat a whole fruit! Lots of non-food sensory play will help with texture issues, and a chew stick (DS has a chocolate scented special needs one) will help to develop chewing muscles. We also do a lot of fine motor play to help strengthen his fingers.

More hugs, I know exactly how frantic you feel  :-* It will get better in time  :-*