Parents and caregivers of individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, can face significant challenges during mealtime. It’s not uncommon to have tantrums, ritualistic eating behavior, or food selectivity and sensitivity. All of which makes providing proper nutrition difficult. However, Ascend Autism can work with families to address the underlying behavioral root causes of these mealtime challenges. By addressing these behaviors head-on we can not only improve these behaviors but also positively impact their diet and physical health.
Challenges Facing Autism Nutrition and Diet
Repetitive behaviors, habits, and a reluctance to change can make it difficult for children with an autism spectrum disorder to maintain a healthy diet. Behaviors can exert a strong influence over food choice and therefore, health concerns like the following can arise:
- Limited selection: This can be one of the most significant challenges for parents and caregivers. Nearly all children can be picky or finicky when it comes to food, but those with ASD can have much stronger food dislikes based on their sensitivity to the taste, smell, color, and texture (often called mouthfeel) of food.
- Scheduling: Not only can food selection become limited but also the time spent eating can be a challenge. It can be a challenge to get a child with ASD to focus long enough during mealtime to get enough to eat. Changes in schedule can also affect diet. Not eating enough can cause other behavioral issues later on in the day.
- Medications: Kids with ASD often have other comorbidities that are addressed by medications that can diminish appetite. Also, medications can have an effect on how food tastes as well as how the body absorbs or metabolizes the vitamins and minerals from what is eaten. It’s vital to know the potential side effects of any medication.
Areas to Manage
It’s important to only make changes to a diet after consulting a physician and, if possible, a dietician. Calcium and protein intake are two vital nutrients, especially for children, because they directly affect growth and mental development. There are other dietary needs to meet, as well. Children with ASD can have low iron levels and lack Omega-3 fats due to their eating habits. If this is the case, supplements may be a way to address this. Talk with your doctor about using supplements or multivitamins to help children with ASD. However, your first course of action should be to revise the meals you eat at home before turning to supplements.
Diet influences our physical health and mental wellbeing. When it comes to autism, proper nutrition can assist with certain behaviors. But it is key that individuals with ASD have their dietary needs met despite their preferences or habits, so they remain healthy. Ascend Autism understands this and can guide parents and caregivers through some of the best ways to address the root cause behaviors that can negatively impact mealtime and ultimately nutrition.
Ascend Autism provides a natural and accessible approach to improving the behaviors of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We apply the consistent, progressive, and motive-based principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), but in a method that engages a child organically. All interventions or therapies utilized by Ascend Autism are tailored specifically to each individual but are also fully comprehensive in order to address and promote the core functional capabilities of:
- Social Skills
- Daily Living Skills
- Adaptive Behaviors (aka Age-Appropriate Behavior)
Ascend Autism works with families across New York and New England both in-person and via telehealth services. If you are interested in learning more, give us a call at 877.323.8668. We can get you the support you need today.