Autism and food aversions often go hand in hand. Children can refuse to eat specific foods for a number of reasons including smell, texture, color, or simply because they’ve never tried it before. Attempting to get a child to eat something that they do not want to eat or removing preferred food items, can cause many problem behaviors such as aggression and tantrums. In addition, the foods that they do prefer and consume regularly (such as candy, bread, or fast food) could be lacking in nutritional value, which could result in major health deficiencies- such as malnutrition.
At BCOTB, we offer intensive, behaviorally based feeding therapy to assist with food aversions. The purpose of our feeding program is to expand the child’s food preferences, introduce new foods to the child’s diet, and decrease the problem behaviors associated with feeding. We do this by gradually and systematically fading in non-preferred foods and creating incentives and motivators for eating them. For example, we may begin with just having children smell the new foods in order to gain access to a preferred food or activity and then gradually work up to taking a bite.
Our feeding therapy consists of an initial interview conducted with the caregivers. This interview outlines a list of foods currently tolerated, foods eaten previously but not currently tolerated, and foods that the parents would like to be immediately targeted for consumption. Feeding sessions will then be implemented by a certified staff member and data will be collected every session to track progress. The first few feeding sessions will involve teaching your child how the feeding process works (i.e. first you eat, then you go play.) Therefore, the first few sessions will involve food that your child already eats. Next, slight variations to those foods will be made.
If your child only eats a specific brand of cereal, a generic brand may be targeted. If they only eat chicken nuggets from one fast food chain, chicken nuggets from a different fast food chain will be targeted. After working on variations to foods currently tolerated, new foods will then be targeted. Feeding sessions will be generalized to different settings and people, if needed. Also, ongoing support and parent training on all procedures will be provided to ensure continued success.
For more information regarding BCOTB’s Feeding Therapy, please contact us at 813-814-2000.