I’m honoured and eager to take part again in this year’s blog hop for Autism Month, lovingly initiated by RJ Scott. 30 authors will be featuring a fact each day – which you may or may not know already – and sharing their own thoughts on the topic.
And there are GIVEAWAYS too! Mine is below. Please visit other posts this month, all links are hosted HERE.
Today’s fact: Around 700,000 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum.
Wow. That’s a lot of people. At this time, we’re bombarded with statistics / percentages / numbers, and it’s easy for that to feel impersonal. But many of us already know people on the autistic spectrum, even in our own limited lives. We’re all in this together.
This year’s theme is FOOD. Food has always been connected with behaviour, physical and emotional. I was a picky child – I like to say nowadays, a “selective” adult! – but let’s face it, I’ve always had a perfectly good choice of food, and the opportunity to change my mind about my likes and dislikes.
Below, this is what I looked like most of my toddler life, apparently >>
But for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), food can genuinely challenge their coping skills. For instance, many children and adults on the spectrum are extremely sensitive to not just flavour, but also the colour, smell and texture of foods. Many also have strong preferences for a narrow selection of foods. Some even feel compelled to have certain foods in the same place on the plate or to use the same plate at each meal.
On top of this, many individuals with autism have difficulty describing what they like or dislike about certain foods. So it can be difficult to determine what it is about a certain food that’s so important – or upsetting – to them. And that increases the risk of meltdowns.
Research also tells us that many individuals with autism tend to have strong preferences for carbohydrates and processed foods, while rejecting fruits and vegetables. This, too, may reflect an aversion to strong tastes and textures. Unfortunately, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies and excessive weight gain, especially if exercise is limited.
The need for sameness that is common in ASD may also make it difficult to introduce new foods in a daily diet. Put it all together, and meals can become emotionally loaded for everyone in the family. This is expecially difficult when it’s a child you’re trying to offer meals to.
READ ON for more about coping strategies for a child at mealtimes, and the GIVEAWAY!
Coping strategies – your child at mealtimes
In general, it’s important to avoid making food a chronic source of conflict.
* try to defuse the situation as you would any other potential meltdown. Use your tried-and-true coping strategies. For example, a deep breath and a break from the conversation.
* try a visual schedule to establish a plan for mealtime or negotiate a reward that could be earned for completing a task such as trying a new food.
* when introducing a new food, remember that a touch of consistency can help keep things calm. So include one or two old favourites in every meal along with any new introduction.
* go softly in introducing new foods. You can try the age-old “try one bite,” or start with asking a child to just smell or lick the food the first time it’s offered. You can also build on a preferred food to gently expand a diet to include similar choices (like a different but related brand food).
* try making the new choice together at the supermarket when you’re both calm and away from the dining-room table.
* try to encourage flexibility around trying new foods. Away from mealtime, discuss how a child’s favourite food can be the “Plan A” choice for mealtime, but that it may not always be available. So they will need a “Plan B” that they agree will be acceptable.
CLARE’S COMMENT: It’s amazing to me how many of these strategies work for ALL people, not only children on the autistic spectrum. And of course these ideas were all formulated in the years before our current self-isolation / potentially limited food supply situation. But here’s looking at happy mealtimes in the future!
Many thanks for content in today’s post from https://www.autismspeaks.org/expert-opinion/what-it-about-autism-and-food-0
Please comment on this post, or on my Facebook where it’ll be copied, and I’ll enter your name for a £10/$15 Amazon voucher. I’ll draw the name on SUNDAY April 10.
THANKS FOR READING