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Autism and eating

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lulu221110
lulu221110 Community member Posts: 13 Connected
Hello all,

I have a verbal four year old who is autistic and seems to be less and less flexible with what she is willing to eat as she gets older. She likes food to be plain, dry, and not touching. She loves crisps and cakes and eats apple at times. Sometimes she eats curry that I make and can handle spaghetti and pasta that is not plain at times. I am often not sure if she has eaten at nursery or not but have held back from giving her packed lunch as she really likes doing what all the other children are doing and is probably more likely to eat there than at home.

Recently, she has been really hard to feed and seems to not be hungry or want anything at all. As a result she is eating very small amounts of processed foods such as fridge raiders, brioche rolls, mini cheese, yoghurt and that is about it. I cannot get her to eat any fruit or veg at the moment- even getting her to eat a piece of broccoli which she used to love is very hard work.

Are there any tips or suggestions of other things she may like that I can try that are more nutritious? We are not trying to convince her to eat but I am feeling a bit worried as she is only on the 9th percentile as it is and I am aware of the links between autism and eating disorders, particularly in girls. 

Any suggestions would be very welcome,

Thanks,

Lucetta

Comments

  • Biblioklept
    Biblioklept Community member Posts: 4,948 Disability Gamechanger
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    Hi @lulu221110 <3 I don't have any real advice but wanted to say hello. I'm an autistic adult and have food aversion. My palate has grown as I've gotten older and I've tried more things I now have more variation but it's taken a long time for me to get to this point. 
    As a child there was a time where all I ate was a certain type of cereal and it had to be dry. I had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for over a year (much to my dad's despair!) As an adult I eat lots of different things. If I'm feeling sad or overwhelmed or anxious I still go for a bowl of plain pasta or brioche rolls but typically I eat quite a range. It just took time and exploration. 

    One thing: Don't ever force it. Imagine a food you really can't stomach and just the thought makes you feel nauseous. Everyone has something and if you don't, imagine you're being forced to eat a pile of live worms or something. And someone you love and trust is stood over you forcing you to eat them no matter how much you protest. That's what it feels like. It may look like a delicious bowl of blueberries to you but that's not how they'll be viewing it. Keep giving options, let them see you try new things but don't force them to try things. Away from the table talk about excitement of trying new things, but don't force the subject or force them to eat.

    I'd also say and have seen other autistic people say, please make foods 'good' or 'bad' (so treat dessert or junk in the same way you treat every other food). The obsession people have with "eat two more pieces of broccoli and you can have ice cream" type conversations actually teaches that ice cream is a reward and something you want and broccoli is a chore. So not only do they then associate broccoli as a negative, they want ice cream more. 

    As my diet as a child was limited to plain foods (crisps, white toast, plain pasta, chocolate) as soon as I hit teenage years where everyone was talking about weight I began feeling incredibly guilty eating these foods as everyone would talk about how bad they were and how they make you fat etc. I very quickly developed disordered eating because I was ashamed of the foods I could eat and so ate nothing. 

    As a "picky eater" people would often make jokes about how I could handle junk food so it was just a choice and if my parents made me go without dinner I'd soon eat etc. It never worked and just developed a poor relationship with food. 
    I can also explain why many autistics can handle "junk" food but not much else. 
    You know exactly what you're getting every time. The texture doesn't change (and is similar across foods) and it's always the same. Take a punnet of grapes, even from the same vine they're not all the same. Some can be more or less ripe, more bitter, more sweet, chewier, juicier, even the colour can be different. The textures are different. Where as picture a packet of biscuits, every single one is identical. You might get the odd broken one but they are all the same shape, texture, flavour. You know what to expect every time you eat a digestive. It's not going to suddenly turn into a sour grape in your mouth. 
  • Biblioklept
    Biblioklept Community member Posts: 4,948 Disability Gamechanger
    edited August 2022
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    Sorry that ended up much longer than I expected :D 

    Also wanted to add: It could also be worth looking into ARFID, even just for tips <3 
  • lulu221110
    lulu221110 Community member Posts: 13 Connected
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    @Biblioklept
    Thank you so much! This is so helpful. I really hadn't thought about the 'good' and 'bad' food concepts and it makes total sense how this would condition anyone into feeling that one thing was a chore and the other a reward. I actually think that your comment is the most useful thing I have read about helping her so I am very appreciative that you took the time to write such a detailed response. It also makes perfect sense that she likes processed foods more, and I can now remember a few times that I have cooked something and she has seemed really excited only just to spit it all out. I am glad that you were able to work through some of your difficulties with food  too <3
  • Biblioklept
    Biblioklept Community member Posts: 4,948 Disability Gamechanger
    edited August 2022
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    @Biblioklept
    Thank you so much! This is so helpful. I really hadn't thought about the 'good' and 'bad' food concepts and it makes total sense how this would condition anyone into feeling that one thing was a chore and the other a reward. I actually think that your comment is the most useful thing I have read about helping her so I am very appreciative that you took the time to write such a detailed response. It also makes perfect sense that she likes processed foods more, and I can now remember a few times that I have cooked something and she has seemed really excited only just to spit it all out. I am glad that you were able to work through some of your difficulties with food  too <3
    The fact she tried it is amazing though, always look for the positives! Getting her involved with the cooking and preparing of food can help, even if she doesn't end up eating the meal it increases her tolerance of feeling the different food textures and smells without the pressure of eating it. So if you're able get her involved in all steps of the process, from picking the food in shops to prepping it and plating it up etc!
    I hope you manage to find new exciting things to add to her diet <3 
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