Nurturing Nutritional Needs: Supporting Kids with Autism and Sensory IssuesJul 06, 2023
Being a mom to a child with autism comes with its own set of unique challenges. One of these challenges is managing their sensory issues, especially when it comes to food. Many children with autism prefer crunchy and packaged foods, as they provide a sense of familiarity and consistency. However, it's important for us as moms to ensure that our children receive a balanced and nutritious diet. In this blog post, we will explore strategies to overcome these challenges and help our kids with autism develop a healthy relationship with food.
Understanding the Sensory Challenges
Children with autism often struggle with sensory processing, which can affect their perception of taste, texture, and consistency. Fruits, with their varying flavors and textures, can be particularly overwhelming for them. The inconsistency can lead to sensory overload and even cause gagging, making it difficult for them to incorporate fruits into their diet.
Overcoming Sensory Challenges
Blend It Up: One effective way to overcome the texture-related issues is to incorporate fruits into blended foods. By using a blender, you can create smoothies, popsicles, or even add purees to pancakes. Blending the fruits maintains their nutritional value while providing a consistent texture that is more manageable for children with sensory issues.
Gradual Exposure: Introducing new fruits to your child's diet should be a gradual process. Start with small portions of fruits with milder flavors and smoother textures. As their tolerance improves, you can gradually increase the variety and complexity of the fruits. Patience and persistence are key during this process.
Visual Appeal: Presenting fruits in an appealing manner can encourage your child to explore them. Cut fruits into fun shapes or create colorful fruit salads. Engage your child in the preparation process, allowing them to touch and feel the fruits at their own pace. This can help desensitize their aversion to different textures.
Sensory-Friendly Shopping: When grocery shopping, involve your child in selecting fruits. Let them touch, smell, and examine the fruits. This interactive experience can help them feel more comfortable with the produce section and increase their willingness to try new fruits.
Seek Professional Guidance: Consulting a pediatrician, nutritionist, or occupational therapist who specializes in sensory issues can be immensely helpful. They can provide personalized strategies to address your child's specific needs and help create a balanced diet plan that accommodates their sensory preferences.
Promoting Nutritional Variety
While it's important to respect your child's sensory preferences, it is equally vital to introduce them to a variety of nutritious foods. Here are a few tips to expand their diet:
Hiding Nutrients: Sneak nutrient-dense fruits into other dishes, such as smoothies, sauces, or baked goods. This way, your child can still benefit from the nutritional value without being overwhelmed by the texture.
Pairing Foods: Combine fruits with familiar foods that your child enjoys. For example, serve apple slices with peanut butter or blend berries into yogurt. Gradually, you can reduce the familiar food component, allowing your child to appreciate the taste and texture of the fruit.
Texture Exploration: Introduce different textures gradually, starting with soft fruits and gradually moving towards crunchier options. For example, start with applesauce and progress to apple slices. This approach can help your child become more comfortable with varying textures over time.
Sensory-Friendly Snacks: Seek out alternative snack options that cater to your child's sensory preferences while still providing nutritional value. Look for packaged snacks specifically designed for individuals with sensory sensitivities, such as freeze-dried fruits or baked fruit chips.
As a mom to a child who used to suffer with severe autism sensory issues, I understand the challenges associated with sensory issues and their impact on our kids.
Want to learn more on how to work with me?
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