Aside from sleep, food is also among the top concerns that parents immediately have when their child is diagnosed with Autism. Naturally, diet plays a big role in any child’s health but it is certainly not surprising to learn that children on the spectrum really struggle with their nutritional needs.
The good news though is that many people on the spectrum still share a set of common dietary preferences and eating habits. Here is a handy list of guidelines that can shed some light on what parents need to do for stress-free mealtimes.
#1. Get a complete run-down of all their food sensitivities.
Raising a child with Autism means always being in touch with their doctor. Therefore, it only makes sense that food allergies and taste sensitivities should be among the top things you should be confirming.
By having a complete and thorough list of all your child’s special conditions in relation to food, you will know the most immediate things to avoid.
#2. Take special note of the food that cause reflux or gas.
Children with Autism have great difficulty communicating what is going on with their bodies and that goes for when they are experiencing stomach issues that are otherwise normal.
Tummy aches from gas-inducing food (e.g. beans) might create enhanced feelings of discomfort which lead to needless meltdowns. Likewise, food with high acid content (e.g. spicy dishes) can be a source of painful reflux that will also create problems (and even vomiting). Keep these
#3. Cut down on the sugar and avoid caffeine.
It is important to remember that individuals with Autism can have very different body clocks. That means anything that gives them too much energy can create very large problems. It can make it difficult for them to sleep or enhance their already high sensitivity.
Parents should start reducing the amount of high sugar content in their child’s food. Meanwhile, sources of caffeine (such as from sodas and chocolates) should be avoided as much as possible.
#4. Going gluten-free certainly helps.
The high sensitivity that comes with autism often goes hand in hand with a sensitivity to certain proteins. Gluten is one of the most common examples.
Consider going on a gluten-free diet for at least a month and see how well that works for your child. It helps to also consult with your doctor about this and if they can recommend some form of additional supplements to help with the diet.
#5. Space mealtimes to avoid overstimulation.
Lastly, it is not just what they eat but also when. Given their less-than-regular biorhythms, children with ASD might not benefit from having meals and snacks to closely together.
For instance, eating right before bed can make sleep difficult because their body is still stimulated by tastes and smells. On the other hand, they might be too sluggish if the period between meal times is too long.
Make sure the child is always eating at a proper time to bring them further into a normalised routine.
Of course, there are probably more nuances with each specific child, which is why it is still important to regularly consult your doctor as you continue to adjust their diet. With the above guidelines though, it can make for a smoother transition and a much healthier kid!
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