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Emill
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06 Mar 2013, 9:39 am

Hi,

I am a kindergarten Autism teacher and I am concerned about the health of some of my students. A few of them have strong food aversions and refuse to try new things. I have tried just putting a small amount on their plate, or just showing it to them one day but they still refuse to try it. Any suggestions?
Thanks!



BlackSabre7
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06 Mar 2013, 10:13 am

I eat the same thing for breakfast every day, and this began in 1994. I don't want anything else. When I am not able to have my breakfast, I feel like something is missing. I will eat what is available, begrudgingly, but I make sure I can have my breakfast in future. Every other meal is whatever, but breakfast is my 'thing'. Even a gourmet meal at a top class restaurant did not make up for the fact that this was not my breakfast.
I vary it sometimes. I may add toast, with whatever spread looks good on the day. I may add ham to the eggs, or bacon. But the eggs are always there, cooked in the same way, as well as the weet bix and the coffee.

Maybe you could talk to their mothers or care givers, and find out what they usually have? Then see if you can tweak it, if it needs tweaking.
I don't think forcing them to try new things just for the sake of trying new things is a good idea, especially if you want to do it a lot. I don't think it is a worthwhile goal, to get them to accept 50 different foods, if they can remain healthy with 20 different foods that they like. I assume some of them have a really bad diet, and that is why you are concerned?
If they have a strong aversion, maybe they are sensitive to the smell and they are repulsed by it. Maybe their taste buds are sensitive, and they need blander foods?

Good luck, and bless you for working with autistic children.



daydreamer84
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06 Mar 2013, 10:52 am

BlackSabre7 wrote:
Maybe you could talk to their mothers or care givers, and find out what they usually have? Then see if you can tweak it, if it needs tweaking.
I don't think forcing them to try new things just for the sake of trying new things is a good idea, especially if you want to do it a lot. I don't think it is a worthwhile goal, to get them to accept 50 different foods, if they can remain healthy with 20 different foods that they like. I assume some of them have a really bad diet, and that is why you are concerned?
If they have a strong aversion, maybe they are sensitive to the smell and they are repulsed by it. Maybe their taste buds are sensitive, and they need blander foods?


It is healthier to eat a greater variety of food, I know. Still, I think you're fighting a losing battle if you keep pushing new foods and they keep rejecting them. It's better to eat the same thing all the time than nothing and I think for some kids you'd literally have to force feed them to get them to try something they don't want. From grade 1 to grade 8 I threw out my lunch every single day at school unless I had a cream cheese and jam sandwich. No one knew I did this. The teachers noticed sometimes but we ate in a big lunch room which I would wander away from anyways so it wasn't noticed much. I did not tell my mom I did this....I didn't even tell her I wanted a cream cheese and jam sandwich. The thought never occurred to me. This only sounds ridiculous to me now looking back....as a kid it was just what I did . I was hungry at lunch but I always chose to be hungry and not eat rather than eat the disgusting cold cut (lunch meat-smoked turkey ect) or tuna sandwiches that my mum gave me. The smell of cold cuts still bothers me...there's some preservative in them and the smell of it makes me sick.



HauntedKnight
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06 Mar 2013, 11:05 am

I had similar issues as a child, and still do. Any attempt to force me to eat had the opposite effect and made it worse. It was only when I got older and 'wanted' to try a few other things that it got a bit better.



Adamantium
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06 Mar 2013, 12:09 pm

I found this discussion with Tony Attwood very helpful for explaining this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcKVIIIgSlw

He has a very good metaphor for explaining this: it's as though you are saying "I've put a little vomit on your plate. It's good for you, so just try a little vomit. Just one spoonful?"

It's not worth traumatizing kindergarteners over this!

Make sure their parents are giving them supplements and be happy they are taking in calories in some form.



theWanderer
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06 Mar 2013, 12:37 pm

Consider my experience. I grew up undiagnosed in the 1960s. Still am, in fact, since it's hard to get a diagnosis at my age, and given that other factors provided a distraction, it took me until 2010 to figure out what was "wrong" with me.

But I had huge food issues, and my parents tried to force me to eat food that was "good for me". The result was that I ate less and less, until they got so desperate they called my pediatrician. I'll say this for the man - at least in that one area, he showed a lot more sense than many doctors would have. He told them to leave me alone, let me eat what I wanted - and pointed out even an ice cream sundae had some nutrition in it and was better than eating nothing. Things eased up a little once they got off my back.

Fast forward to when I hit my late teens and early twenties. I started, slowly, being interesting in trying foods I didn't usually eat. And I found the things I tried fell into three categories. Most of the foods I'd never had at all before, and decided to try on my own, once I was ready, turned out to be things I enjoy. A few foods I tried on my own, as well as a few I'd been forced to try, were clearly things I would never willingly eat under any circumstances, since they triggered a deep revulsion in me. Most of the foods I'd been forced to try as a child were things I suspect I could have liked - if only I could overcome the learned revulsion from that childhood experience. Since my sensory issues cause me to consider at least some foods with similar tastes or textures to be in the same 'category' and thus respond the same way, that means I still can eat almost no vegetables at all. I know this is a bad idea, I wish I could overcome it - in fact, I've worked out a few tweaks so, at least now and then, I can fit in a few things (one of the reasons I'm certain under other circumstances I could have eaten them - because the things I loathe aren't something I could ever eat, even under pain of death: even as a child, my parents gave up on those after I gagged convulsively on them when they forced me to stick them in my mouth) - but for the most part, I can't. The lingering result, decades later, of being pressured to eat those foods, was to make me unable to eat them.


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Emill
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14 Mar 2013, 7:01 pm

Thank you so much. Just today one of my students refused to eat strawberries and I let it go. He was drinking a little milk and had a few bites of a bagel, so I decided to take your advice and let him lead me towards food he wanted to try insted of the other way around.