A photo of a chart showing healthy snacks for kids with autism.

Nutritional Foods

Food selectivity in children diagnosed with autism often increases stress for parents around mealtime. Parents are often left concerned about the lack of nutritional value their children may be getting during meal times.

Recent research points out that many children diagnosed with autism receive the same nutritional value in foods as their typically developing peers, but the rigidity in their food selection and behaviors during family mealtimes (e.g. food has to be served a specific way, meals have to be prepared a specific way) is most often the factor which increases stress for parents of children diagnosed with autism (Curtin et al., 2015).

Making mealtimes fun and engaging is a great place to start! The Autism Helper is a website which provides easy snack ideas along with visual supports for families to engage in making snacks together. Check out their easy-to-follow recipes, such as summer treats and upcoming Halloween ideas!

Food Activities at Carmen Pingree

Mackenzie Poppleton, an Autism Specialist at Pingree, recently had her class use a visual recipe. The students loved making their own breakfast parfaits!

Meal Time Behavior

Alongside visual supports, parents may also consider behavioral principles such as positive reinforcement and shaping appropriate behaviors around mealtime. Setting mealtime expectations and providing positive reinforcement when your child demonstrates appropriate behavior can help families get back on track with enjoying mealtime.

We learned more about behavioral strategies to use at mealtime at our parent education meeting on September 19th. Dr. Aaron Fischer, Clinical Assistant Professor and BCBA from the University of Utah discussed how to systematically introduce foods and use reinforcement to develop more positive behaviors around mealtime. If you were unable to attend and would like a copy of the presentation, please email me at [email protected]

Our next parent education meeting will be on October 17th from 1:00 – 2:00. We will be discussing how to use visual aids to promote transitions for children diagnosed with autism.