• Suggestions for Picky Eaters

    Suggestions for Picky Eaters

    Some things to keep in mind for increasing textures:

    ·         Change the texture of your child’s diet by very slowly adding a new texture to an already preferred one.

    ·         If your child prefers pureed textures, slowly add a very small amount of a coarser texture.

    ·         Once your child tolerates that amount increase the amount of the new texture until he is mostly consuming the new texture topped off with a bit of the pureed texture.

    ·         Consider adding new textures by using foods that are easily dissolved by saliva.

    ·         If you are feeding your child the new texture, place it in the side of the mouth by his/her teeth instead of on the tongue, where they are more likely to be expelled by your child.

    ·         Follow the same guidelines when trying to introduce soft or smooth textures to a child who prefers crunchy foods.

    ·         Remember it is a slow process.

    ·         Don’t give up.

    Some things to keep in mind for sensitivity to taste:

    ·         Some people have found it helpful to add herbs, spices, and other flavoring agents to foods that do not change the texture of the food. For example if your child prefers French fries and won’t eat mashed potatoes...you may want to add salt to your mashed potatoes to see if your child likes them. It may be the taste he was looking for and not the texture.

    Reaction to Temperature:

    ·         Some children respond negatively when the temperature of their food or utensils is different from their preference. Attempt to keep the temperature as consistent as possible throughout the meal. At times if a child suddenly starts to refuse to continue eating midway thru a meal. This may be due to a change in temperature and not that he is full.

    Strong Preference or Aversion to a Specific Color:

    ·         Consider the color of food, the color of the plate and placemat, these things may be causing the refusal to try eating a variety of foods.

    Increasing Variety of foods:

    ·         When introducing new foods, consider only asking your child to taste the food rather than consuming a whole serving (allow your child to just take one bite).

    ·          Keep servings small.

    ·         Make sure you cut food into small pieces to prevent choking.

    ·         Consider placing a piece of new food by your child’s plate until she is not bothered by it being there.  Over time, move the food closer your child while she is eating with no initial expectation that she must eat it. Provide a reinforcer on her plate if you place the non preferred food on your child’s plate and your child allows it to remain there. Gradually increase your expectations (i.e. your child picks up non preferred food and brings to lips). If successful, reinforce with positive reinforcement. Over the course of the next few weeks, increase your expectations until your child is able to taste, chew, and swallow the non preferred food.

    ·         Consider only introducing one new food at a time.

    ·         Use your creativity when presenting foods- use cookie cutters to cut food into favorite shape, animal, food color to make it preferred color, call broccoli a “tree” instead of Broccoli.

    ·         Try to change favorite foods slightly to increase tolerance of food changes (i.e. break a cookie in half, mix two different colors of yogurt together).

    ·         Allow your child to make food choices so that they feel more control over the situation (i.e. peas or corn).

    ·         Consider allowing your child to feed you non preferred foods first, to demonstrate that they are safe and acceptable for you.

    ·         Consider allowing your child to help with meal preparation and menu selection.

    ·         Remember that increasing tolerance and variety is time consuming. 

    ·         Don’t make meal time stressful.

    ·         Provide reinforcement and praise throughout meal time for each success.

    The following resources were used to gather information for these suggestions:

    ·         Self Help Skills for People with Autism A Systematic Teaching Approach by Stephen R. Anderson, Ph.D., BCBA, Amy L. Jablonski,  Psy.D., Marcus L. Thomeer, PhD., & Vicki Madaus Knapp, Ph.D., BCBA

    ·         Raising A Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel, MA., OTR/L


    Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns,

    Stephanie Sparks, OT

Last Modified on January 13, 2009