Child eating cereal

Have you ever had concerns about your child and what they are eating?

Health and nutrition is something that every parent needs to consider when looking after their child. Challenges come with making sure your child is getting the proper nutrients they need. According to an article written by Autism Speaks, researchers at Marcus Autism Center at Emory University School of Medicine, found children with ASD are five times more likely to have mealtime challenges. Fortunately, there are some strategies to help you and your family navigate picky eaters and unusual food habits!

Here are some tips, suggested by Autism Speaks, Independent Nutrition Consultant, Melissa Roessler. Before jumping into this weeks blog, please know we understand and see on a daily basis, children on the spectrum learning and acquiring skills at different levels and different paces. Cayer Behavioral Group realizes these tips may not ring true to you or your kiddo but don’t give up! If this isn’t helpful, PLEASE reach out to your BCBA. Board Certified Behavior Analysts are trained specifically to understand your family’s needs. Never give up! Hang in there, mamas! Also, always check with your pediatrician and pre-determine any food allergies before tackling the challenges your picky eater brings to the dinner table.

  1. Be a role model for your children: Children pick up on your behavior. If they hear mommy or daddy complain about a food, they will usually follow.  Personally make healthier choices for YOU. When your child recognizes you making these decisions they just might copy. You can also utilize your BCBA to help teach and guide you, your family and your persnickety eater ways to positively reinforce food.
  2. Avoid having battles over food: While bribing children with food may seem like a good idea, it is recommended family’s avoid this approach. Bribing is a temporary fix where using positive reinforcement results in LONG term, behavioral changes. Think outside the box, take deep breaths, and do not engage in bribery battles with your child. You will lose.
  3. Listen to what your child is telling you about food: Don’t forget, if your child isn’t verbal it doesn’t mean they aren’t “telling” you about their food. Watch their behavior, take notes, and gently slip in the non-preferred food in tiny amounts. Pair those yucky bites with their faves. If your child is a traditional talker, ask them what it is they don’t like about the food. Also, take your child to the grocery store. Listen, look and learn from your precious little one. Remember tiny amounts of the yucky, larger amounts of the yummy and reinforce their acceptance of the not-so-good-stuff on their plate!
  4. Have family meals: Meal time should be a positive experience for the whole family! Family meals allow you to connect with all your children, family and friends  and practice healthy eating habits. Simple strategy for dinner: Put your child’s favorites on his/hers plate, paired with samplings of their non-preferred items. Praise your child when he/she touches, holds, smells even looks at the non-preferred items. Do your best to ignore the “junk” behavior often seen during meals. Keep in mind that dinner is not the only opportunity that you have to engage in food preferences during your child’s day. There are many, many other opportunities between waking up and bedtime to practice nibbling on food items they may typically snub. Try not to cause stressful situations for other siblings/partner/spouse during dinner. You, the parent, deserve a stress-less dinner. Pick your battles!
  5. Make the plate fun, colorful and entertaining for your child: The more color on the plate, the better for your child.  Present lunch/dinner/breakfast with a colorful variety of food. Kids are often intrigued by the colors of the rainbow, and through multiple opportunities of seeing similar foods, parents increase the likeliness of their child actually eating!  This also presents a beautiful opportunity to work on naming colors, pointing to foods, and identifying family members and the important role they play in your sweet, child’s life.

Picky eaters are at every home, during every meal. You are not alone, and you are supported! Please keep in mind the Behavior Analysts at Cayer Behavioral Group are here to help you and your picky eaters 😊

Call us at 850.320.6555 or email support@cayerbehavioral.com with any questions or concerns that you have!!

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