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Autism and Eating Difficulties

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Some of our children have difficulties with swallowing or eating foods with particular texture, smells, colours, etc. Refusing to eat certain food, having meltdowns or showing other behaviours during meals, or gagging and vomiting around certain foods can be very difficult.

A healthy diet

A healthy diet for a person with autism is exactly the same as a healthy diet for anyone else. The ideal diet contains:

• 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day

• Starchy foods – preferably wholemeal

• Protein twice a day

• 3 portions of dairy per day

However, it is important to remember that a healthy diet may be extremely difficult for a person with autism to achieve. The aim should always be to give that person a diet that is as close to this ideal as possible, without causing them any distress. If you can only get the person to eat one or two portions of fruit and vegetables per week, this is a step in the right direction and may be the best you can do. It is still preferable to a diet with no fruit or vegetables at all.

Areas of concern you may like to look out for

  • Weight loss and not growing well
  • Gaining weight
  • Eating less than 20 foods
  • Coughing or choking on food
  • Constipation – this can have an impact on their appetite and cause further issues around being fearful of going to the toilet
  • Refusing to eat any of the major foods
  • Tooth Decay
  • Medical issues, for example diabetes 

If you are concerned about any of these issues, or if they persist, visit your GP

You may like to consider the following areas when unpicking your child’s eating difficulties:

Sensory Concerns, Anxiety, Choices, Control, and Flexibility