Most families enjoy sitting around the dinner or kitchen table for a long and relaxed evening meal together. Unfortunately, if one of the kids is suffering from disorders such as autism, the simple act of eating or enjoying a meal can be quite daunting or even bothersome to people around them, and for a good reason. Autistic individuals are picky eaters. Gathering around the dinner table for family meals together can be quite a challenge to kids suffering from autism. Some of the commonest challenges are such as:
• Anxiety as a result of changes in their normal schedule
• Higher than normal expectations where table manners are concerned
• Emotional and sensory overload as a result of being surrounded by different faces
• Having to eat what they are not used to
Helping autistic kids to feel more confident and comfortable so as to fully engage in high-stress situations such as being expected to behave properly in dinner tables is something of a paramount importance according to the experts in autism therapy in Toronto. In this case, the recommended autism therapy is sensory enrichment treatment.
What causes picky eating?
Picky eating is a major problem where kids with autism are concerned. Food selectivity in this case refers to selective eating disorder, excessive intake of certain types of foods, limited repertoires of foods, regular food refusals, and picky eating. Food sensitivity is the main factor that contributes to food selectivity with these kinds of kids. In this case, the types of foodstuffs that are presented to the child often present a challenge to him or her. The main food factors contributing to either a refusal or an agreement to eat include:
• Smell and look
• Texture and scent
Other issues that can impact the ability of the kid to eat a well balanced diet include compulsions over the manner in which the food is served and excessive attention over the packaging of the food. The most important sensory input that leads an autistic kid to react adversely to specific types of food is its texture. In this case, quite a number of autistic kids are known to create their own preferences around the foods they feel comfortable with.
Helping picky eaters that are struggling with sensory processing problems
A recent research has confirmed that sensory processing issues are the main cause of food selectivity where kids with autism are concerned. Sensory enrichment therapy in this case is able to slowly but surely reduce the anxiety that autistic kids feel when they are presented with new foods and textures. This kind of an advanced autism therapy is also used to help increase the kid’s desire to try new foods. According to caregivers and parents that had implemented this kind of a therapy, their autistic children were able to slowly expand the range of foods they would eat until their eating preferences and habits became the same as those of other naturally developing kids.
Apart from sensory enrichment therapy, being together at a dinner table is also helpful when it comes to fostering a balanced diet. In most cases, parents or caregivers are overly concerned about their loved ones comfort and health. Unfortunately, this all can add stress to a normal mealtime for autistic individuals.
Studies have shown that mealtime tension is a major contributor to autistic kid’s defensiveness. Autism therapists recommend reducing mealtime stress by emphasizing the pleasure of being together as a family. They also recommend making mealtimes as enjoyable as possible for the autistic kids by remaining calm. This way, the child is able to easily overcome his or her sensory processing problems, and that are preventing him or her from being able to enjoy a wide variety of different foods during family mealtimes.