Mealtimes can be problematic for many families, and can be particularly difficult for families with children on the autistic spectrum. However, there are things that you can do to improve this, whether it's tackling fussy eating or getting them to stay seated at the table.
We’ve identified a few tips below to help you all enjoy more positive mealtimes:
1. Encourage your child to eat at the table and eat with them, at the same time. If they try to wander round the room eating, remove the food and encourage them to sit down again. Give minimum attention for leaving the table.
2. Notice what your child enjoys eating in terms of texture, colour, taste, etc. and make sure each meal includes some foods they like. Try to extend the range of things they will accept by placing tiny amounts of new foods on their plate, keeping them separate from other food. Do not try to press your child to eat the new food but give praise if they do.
3. Offer your child choices, using symbols, photos or the foods themselves, to help their communication skills. It will also give them some feelings of control and independence.
4. Choose a favourite pudding or after meal activity to encourage your child to eat. Use simple language e.g. first dinner then pudding.
5. Don’t expect your child to sit for too long, especially after they have finished their meal. You could try something such as a kitchen timer, or a favourite book/toy to encourage them to sit for a short period while others are still eating.
6. Cut down on snacks between meals or replace more filling snacks with fruit so that they are hungry at mealtimes.
7. Place a plastic sheet under the table and give minimum attention to dropped or thrown food.
8. Talk to your child’s school as they may eat things there they don’t at home (and vice versa)
9. If you are very concerned about your child’s eating, speak to your GP.