Tips on how to feed children are hard to avoid. You’re probably picking tidbits up from the internet, the playground, and even the doctor’s office. Being bombarded with a plethora of information on the best ways to help a picky eater is overwhelming to say the least and sometimes straight up confusing and even risky.
The reality is, no one knows your child like you do and many people - even doctors - aren’t familiar with the unique eating challenges that a child with autism faces. Consequently, there’s a lot of questionable and even false information out there.
A few weeks ago I asked parents about the worst autism picky eating advice they’ve ever heard and there was no shortage of answers. You guys have heard it all!
Typical picky eating advice often isn’t applicable to kids on the spectrum. Myths about picky eating and autism are all over the place. It’s easy to get caught up in the chatter and parents are willing to try anything to get their child to eat.
These are the most common myths about picky eaters with autism (plus the real truth so you know exactly what you’re dealing with!)
Autism and Eating Myth 1
Myth: If he doesn’t eat what you put in front of him, don’t serve anything else. He won’t starve.
Truth: Picky eaters on the spectrum may not feel hunger strongly and often aren’t motivated by food (unless it’s their very favorite). Withholding food often won’t improve eating and can actually be risky.
Autism and Eating Myth 2
Myth: She’ll grow out of it.
Truth: Picky eating is something over 50% of parents report (the number jumps to as high as 80% in the autism population). That’s all to say that picky eating is a pretty typical part of child development. For many kids, picky eating is just a phase. Others, however, won’t outgrow it on their own. Many kids on the spectrum fall into the second category and benefit from a targeted intervention to help with their particular challenges.
Autism and Eating Myth 3
Myth: He’s just picky.
Truth: Usually when it comes to autism and eating issues, pickiness doesn’t capture the complexity of what your child is experiencing. Kids on the spectrum may be experiencing sensory sensitivities, deficits in oral motor skills, digestion issues, neophobia, preference for routine, or behavioral barriers.
Autism and Eating Myth 4
Myth: If she tried it once and didn’t eat it, she didn’t like it.
Truth: Research shows that food preferences can require over a dozen tastes and interactions to develop. One of the biggest mistakes I see is when a caregiver doesn’t continue to offer a new food if their child didn’t eat it. Continue to provide new food exposures and eating opportunities.
Advice and tips about how to feed kids is everywhere. You’ve realized by now that the eating challenges that kids with autism experience are usually different from the barriers seen in traditional picky eating. Myths about autism and picky eating can be frustrating, confusing, and even potentially dangerous.
It’s time to turn on your blinders and block out the chatter you don’t want to hear. If you’ve been talking with a professional about your child’s eating and the advice you’re getting doesn’t sit right, seek a second (or third…) opinion.
If you want the support of someone who understands what you’re going through and has experience helping children just like yours expand their diets and eat new foods, book a free introductory call HERE to see if you’re a good fit for coaching in my Autism Nutrition Program.