General Ways to Improve Your Child’s Eating:
- Establish a daily schedule for your family
- Set consistent times for meals and snacks
- Do not allow eating between scheduled meals and snacks
- Limit liquid intake between meals and snacks to water only
- Limit juice and milk intake during meals and snacks
- Offer a drink only after a child has begun to eat
- Plan ahead of time what the meal will be
- Decide how long a meal or snack will last (typically around 30 minutes for meals and 15-20 minutes for snacks, varies depending on age of child and ability)
- Offer new foods often and repeatedly (a child may need 10-20 exposures before they will eat a new food)
- Serve food in age-appropriate portion sizes
- Serve meals and snacks at the table when the child is seated
- Model good eating behavior for your child by eating a variety of types and textures of foods
- Ignore minor age consistent behaviors such as occasionally throwing food on the floor, spilling, messiness or banging utensils.
- Make mealtimes POSTIVE!!! This is VERY important. Patterns of bribing, coaxing or yelling during meals only decreases food intake and leads to more difficulty with eating.
- Encourage self-feeding when a child is ready even though an adult feeding the child may be less messy or require less time.
Does Your Child Have a Feeding Problem?
For Parents: If you think your child has a feeding problem, review the questions below and try to keep a record of the following items so that you can accurately report your concerns to your physician and/or therapy team:
- What foods does your child eat? Keep a food diary and record all the foods and liquids that your child eats/drinks for a week.
- Does your child have food preferences? Look at your food diary to see if your child eats only foods from a certain food group (ie dairy or fruit) or of a certain type or texture (ie pureed, cold, crunchy, etc)
- How closely does your child’s diet match your family diet?
- How much does your child eat?
- How much does your child drink?
- What is your child’s meal/snack schedule?
- How does your child react to new foods you present?
- How do you present the food to your child?
- Where does your child eat meals and snacks?
- Does your child insist on using on one type of dish, cup or utensil?
- How long does your child take to eat a meal/snack?
- Describe your child’s typical behavior during meal/snack time
Sources include: Autism and Feeding Problems by Elizabeth Strickland, RD, LD; Pediatric Feeding Disorders by Kyong-Mee Chung and Sung Woo Khang; Treating Eating Problems of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Delays by Keith E. Williams and Richard M. Foxx