37 Most Common and Counter-Intuitive Mistakes Parents Are Making To Make Autistic Children Eat More Foods

Diet and nutrition play an important role in everyone’s life. In children or adults with autism restoring and maintaining a healthy gut ecology is uttermost vital.

Unfortunately, in most individuals with autism mealtime is associated with strong conflicts with caregivers, tantrums, crying, and even nausea. There could be a multitude of underlying reasons for it and each child needs individualized attention by a certified health care provider.

However, any parent CAN help children wake up their brain more to new possibilities and eventually move out of this struggle circle. We have put together a list of the most common mistakes parents are making when trying to introduce a more varied diet to support healthy nutrition in their children. Years of experience and our growing understanding of how the brain learns have shown the following “strategies” to be not only counter-productive but often damaging in the long run.

46-89 % of Autistic Children Have Mealtime Challenges

Families of these children are mostly struggling on their own with little to no understanding from family and friends. Studies from 2006 estimate that 46 to 89 percent of children with autism develop mealtime challenges (Ledfort & Gast, 2006).

Here is the list:

  1. Force-feeding (“make a clean plate”, “take one more bite”)
  2. Constant prompting (“keep eating”, “look at your plate”, “swallow the food”, “drink some water now”)
  3. Following children around the house with food
  4. Sneaking in bites
  5. Feeding the child instead of letting the child eat alone (when able to)
  6. Hiding unwanted foods in favorite foods
  7. Strong encouragement
  8. Loud enthusiasm
  9. Praise (“good girl/boy” suggests that when the child is not eating he/she is bad)
  10. Punishments/rewards
  11. Emotional blackmail (“good girl would eat their dinner”)
  12. Bribery
  13. Tricking children into eating
  14. Negotiations
  15. Comparing to siblings or other children
  16. Exaggerated role-modeling
  17. Unnatural behavior of parents in efforts to establish a stress-free environment
  18. Playing games with food
  19. Telling made-up stories about food
  20. Desensitizing
  21. Focusing on charts, data, and “strategies”
  22. Talking too much
  23. Moving too fast
  24. Internally expecting the child to not eat/prejudice
  25. Being anxious
  26. Have rigid goals about feeding outcomes
  27. Feeling fear
  28. Feeling sadness
  29. Feeling despair
  30. Feeling anger
  31. Thinking negative thoughts (“this will never end”, “I am so frustrated”)
  32. Emitting a strong desire for the child to eat – thinking pressuring thoughts (“Please, please eat finally!”)
  33. Focusing too much on the child during mealtime
  34. Watching every move and bite of our child
  35. Calling child “picky eater” and describing child to others as one who doesn’t eat anything new
  36. Saying “thank you” if the child ate
  37. Making it all about you (“you make me happy when you eat/sad if you don’t eat”; “you don’t want to make me feel sad, do you?”)