My 8yo son won't try new foods.

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Geekstina
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25 Nov 2016, 9:49 pm

My son was diagnosed mild autism two years ago.

My son's list of "approved by him" foods is shrinking. Currently he will eat chips, crackers, cheese, pepperoni pizza, pepperoni by itself, honey nut cheerios, hot dog buns, waffles, sweets (especially chocolates), and that's pretty much it. No veggies , no fruit other than grape juice. He drinks water and milk also (no soda). I give him a swallow-able multivitamin every day because he hates the gummies. He used to eat more things, but his tastes are diminishing. His Dr. has had him on Adderall for about a year, and it's been helping with school attention issues, but we were told a side effect would be lack of appetite, of which he already had a small one to start. I'd love for him to sit down and at least try some new things without it being so stressful for him. He panics, and it breaks my heart. He has never had chicken, never been interested in it, not even a nugget. He gets grossed out if he watches me eat, no matter what it is. So usually, I let him eat alone.

My goal is to be able to take my beautiful son to a restaurant, have him order something from the kid's menu and us enjoy a nice meal together.

Help? Insights?



SharkSandwich211
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25 Nov 2016, 11:44 pm

I know food/eating battles can be tough. Regression is hard too. I would suggest trying to introduce foods that are similar to the ones he is already eating. By the list you provided it seems like soft bread, crispy, sweets and dairy comprise the list. With exception to the peperoni it seems like the foods that he has approved are pretty bland in nature.

I would also suggest seeking out a feeding therapist. There can be a lot of psycholgical influences on eating and a feeding therapist would be able to help you identify those if they are in fact present.

My 4 year old son went to feeding therapy for about 8 months due to severe food allergies. We learned not to make the eating evironment stressful in any way, reward the tiniest interaction with the food, (touch, sniff, even trying it and spitting it out was to be rewarded). It can be a true struggle.

I would also suggest keeping a food journal. This will help document progress, set backs, amounts, moods, times of day, and settings and other things that might be influencing the decision to not try new foods. In the event that you do seek outside help this will be good data that they will be able to get a good sense idea of what has been going on for a set period of time.

Best of Luck and I hope that you find the answers you're looking for. Kind Regards Shark



eikonabridge
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26 Nov 2016, 9:27 am

8 years old is already at the age of reasoning. So, if your son still doesn't try new foods, the main problem is not food pickiness, but intellectual development. About 1 year ago, when my son was still 6 years old, he usually did not let me brush the back of his teeth. One day I told him: "you've gotta let Papa brush the back of your teeth, otherwise you'll have to go visit the dental office." I was shocked to find out that he actually did let me do it. See, once the children are intellectually developed, they should be able to make the right decisions. So the primary issue is intellectual development. We shouldn't be so distracted by the secondary issues to the point of forgetting to address the primary issues.

It's too late for your son, but for other parents, if your child is 2 years old or younger (3 might be too late), you should start getting them into daily intake of fruit and vegetable juice. We started early with both of our children. We got a high-speed blender (Vitamix) and my wife makes juice about twice a week and store it in jars in the fridge. You mix in any fruit/vegetable that is available. So, the recipe is never the same. The color is never the same: sometimes it's a bit pink, sometimes is dark green. The kids drink a cup of this "liquid diet" once a day. Liquid diet allows you to "pivot" from one flavor to another, so they get used to all kinds of tastes and textures. My children pretty much eat anything nowadays. There is no common food item that they would reject.

What to do when the child is around the age of your son? Well, first and foremost, address the intellectual development part as the main goal. As on the food side, if he likes grape juice, you already have a place to start to mix in small amount of other things (e.g. fruit punch). Find variety of other things that are substitutes or alternative forms to cheese. E.g., cream cheese on bagels. Again, cream cheese, being mushy, would allow you to mix in other items. Yogurt allows you to mix in honey and berries. Pivot from his current food items, add in new things in small amounts, below his rejection threshold. That way, you get a chance to expose him to other flavors/textures in a gentler way. It's the same idea as the fruit/vegetable juice that we make for our children.

Coming back to intellectual development, kids learn by seeing examples. And these kids are visual. That means you as a parent need to draw pictures and write in front of their eyes. You are the one that need to show them imagination and creativity. 3D constructions are great, too. My wife never ceases looking after good 3D projects for my son. Here is a new toy Ferris Wheel that my wife just built on Thanksgiving with participation of both of my children. It took me by surprise when I arrived at the kids' grandparent's place.
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It's not just about visual input. What I care is to get the kids up to the point of producing their own manual output. Once they get to the point of being able to draw and write, pretty much they are all set for the rest of their lives. Here is what my son drew as a sketch for the control of the Ferris Wheel. That kind of doodling means so much more to me, than getting him to socialize and make friends (or addressing food pickiness in other people's case). Because, once you get this part done, the other part comes later, for free. No need to turn the lives of these kids upside down.
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I always go back to my Hallelujah Mountain and Connected Development Graph http://wrongplanet.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=296628. When you focus too much on the shortcomings of these children, you sometimes forget that the solution to all those issues may actually come from somewhere else, something that you cannot possibly see if you just focus on the problems of these children. The key is not to focus on these children's shortcomings, but instead to focus on their strengths and develop them from there. If I haven't done that, my son probably would still refuse to wear paper hats and be sitting in the same old car seat!
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In short, food pickiness is not the issue you should be worrying about. Sure, you should pay attention to it, but there is a bigger issue in your son. You address that issue, all other issues will be gone. We've never used drugs on our children. Earlier this week my wife took my son to visit his pediatrician, and the doctor was so impressed about how far along my son has come in his development. (He was the one that wanted to prescribe drugs, ha ha.) Yeah, while other parents try to seek "treatments" for their children's issues, I only focus on developing their visual-manual skills, and expand from their interests. Autism is really trivial. The kids are perfectly fine. Our society on the other hand is so sick that it's basically terminally ill.


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27 Nov 2016, 9:27 pm

It is very common for autistic children to have sensory issues with foods and or rigidities relating to food. I agree with the poster who suggested trying foods that are similar to what he is already eating and trying to build from there. The food journal mentioned would also be helpful to show you what patterns there are.

Even if he is trying just variations of what he is doing -- that is progress.

Cheese: There are many different types of cheese. If he will only go with American Cheese, try cheddar, for example. My son would only eat yellow cheeses. Then we got him to eat Colby Jack. He still won't eat totally white cheeses (He hates blandly colored food because it is visually unappealing and that is Ok b/c not every fight is worth fighting. There are foods I won't eat b/c they look gross to me, too.

Pizza: We were very happy when our son would eat pizza b/c it is one of only two foods he will eat that has a sauce in it. The other is lasagne. That is because it is baked in and not really functionally texturally as a sauce. If your son will only try pepperoni pizza, try salami. Any change accepted is a positive thing, no matter how small b/c he is doing something differerent.

Honey Nut Cheerios. See if he will eat plain Cheerios or a mix of plain and Honey Nut. Try similar oat-based, sweetened cereals (I can't think of what there is, but I am sure you can look and see)

Grape Juice: You could try the various grape/other fruit combo juices or mix your own.

Hot Dog Buns: try wheat hot dog buns, regular hamburger buns, other breads.

Sweets: My son normally hates anything with a creamy, smooth texture, except sweet items like sweetened yogurt and ice cream (You would not believe the struggle we had to get him to try vanilla ice cream (a white and smooth food) and that kind of thing. You could use his love of sweets to see if it will act as a gateway to other things. If you want to try vegetables, for example: candied yams, or pumpkin or sweet potato pie might be ideas. I know these are not super healthy, but if he accepts the new items, it could pave the way for more progress.

You get the idea.

Also, based on your list of things he will eat, I think he absolutely could go to a restaurant. You just have to plan ahead and do some recon work. Many kids' menus have a personal pizza as an option. If he won't eat plain pizza, than you can always take him to an Italian restaurant and he can order pepperoni pizza. Sometimes, once kids start going to restaurants and they feel in control of what they order, they get a little more adventurous. Our son once surprised us and ordered shrimp tempura at a Japanese restaurant instead of his usual order.

The other thing I would add is that sometimes kids do control food b/c it is one of the few things they can control. I would make various goods available, encourage interaction, but I tried to lay off of the pressure. Sometimes I would just serve it on his plate with no comment. Sometimes he would calmly ask why I served him something (I use those separated plates so no meltdowns about food contaminating other items.) and I would just tell him it is a Mommy's job to give him food options.

We still have food issues, but he eats enough of a variety to be healthy and I am fine with that b/c adults are not required to eat any old thing, either. I just look at it as being somewhat inconvenient, but OK. It helps to think positively and not stress over it. it is not your fault and is not a poor reflection on him.

Food is such a charged thing, and sometimes people around you will give you old-school advice that may apply to some kids (even some kids on the spectrum) like let them go hungry if they don't eat what you made--they will eat when they are hungry enough etc. There are some kids that works for. My brother and I were not like that and neither is my son--and people who don't have these issues often don't understand.

Edited to add: I just realized I did not address a really promising thing. Pizza is a combination food. If your son is willing to try other combination foods, he might even try foods that are combinations of what he already eats, like a grilled cheese sandwich. That is something that is also readily available on kids' menus, and while not technically being a new addition to what he is eating; eating foods in different forms is also progress and can open your child up to more new things.



KimD
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27 Nov 2016, 11:40 pm

^^ Excellent ideas and advice!

Geekstina, you have my sympathy. I've seen how distressing eating problems can be; the frustration, worry, and sense of helplessness can be hard to bear. I'm glad you reached out. I'd like to second the suggestions about introducing new foods that are similar to what you son's already interested in and keeping meals relaxed and low-stress.

In general, I would recommend against trying to sneak in foods (unless you're really sure he won't notice), because it can backfire, damaging your son's trust in you and what you feed him, and turn him off from those foods for quite a long time. For example: one of my students (a 5-year-old) loved Pringles, so his mom slipped a flavored Pringle into the middle of his usual lunch box supply, but he noticed the difference right away and for a long while, declined all Pringles entirely--and those are one of the two or three foods he regularly eats! He timidly returned to eating them after he’d checked each and every one, to be sure there were no “stowaways” aboard. I don’t blame her at all for trying, but we were all relieved that it didn’t set him back further than that. You know your son best, though, so go with your gut, so to speak!

Tips for keeping meals laid-back: if you’re uptight about what you’re son is or isn’t eating, don’t let him know. If you’re happy that he is eating something, measure what your response to it should be; squeals of joy might be over the top, whereas a simple “hey--I see you ate some string beans; cool” might suffice, or perhaps pretending not to notice at all might be what he really needs. If you offer him more of something and he declines, try to take it in stride. At least he ate some of it. Try not to rush.

Many of my students don’t care for vegetables, but some of them who do like mushy textures will sometimes eat from those veggie pouches that companies like Gerber have on the market now. Granted, they’re designed for children younger than your son, but if he were to try one and liked it, who cares?!

Sensory issues can indeed be a big problem with eating. Especially when you don’t understand the more important reasons for eating, food is all about sensory pleasure. I’ve had a lot of students who would, at least now and then, gag when they tasted, smelled, or saw certain foods or textures, as your son has. Though my teammates and I can’t say we’ve had tremendous success helping our students overcome feeding/eating problems (not our specialty!), we have been able to advance some children’s ability to tolerate the presence of some of their less-than-preferable foods. NOTE: We never try to force a food on a child! However, we will often put the food on the table a couple feet away, and over the course of days or weeks, nudge it a little closer. Some children respond better to a subtle change, while others are more likely to adapt if we're more assertive about it. Eventually, some children will occasionally touch, smell, or even taste the food; our response will vary depending on the child. If all they ever do is tolerate its proximity, we count that as at least a step in the right direction.

That sort of tolerance may play a big role when you take your son to a restaurant; after all, you won’t be able to control what the people at the next table are eating. For now, you can focus on eating together at home, even if it’s only at opposite ends of a long table at first. :)



eikonabridge
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28 Nov 2016, 8:20 am

Just to reiterate:

- if you only focus on addressing sensory issues, your children may be stuck with sensory issues for the rest of their lives.
- if you only focus on addressing socialization issues, your children may be stuck with socialization issues for the rest of their lives.
- if you only focus on addressing behavioral issues, your children may be stuck with behavioral issues for the rest of their lives.

Autism is a connectivity issue. These children are not sick. All they need is development. If you only focus on the top layer of their Connected Development Graph and only see their shortcomings, you may spend a million years and not be able to figure out how to get rid of their problems. Your children cannot achieve development from their weaknesses. That's not how human brains develop. It's been 73 years since the discovery of Child Autism, with countless research studies done: all of them looking at the shortcomings of these children. If there were a magic solution, Google would have told you already. Nope, there is no magic solution, when you only focus on looking at the shortcomings of these children.

You ask the people that have grown out of autism issues (food pickiness, sensory issues, eye contact problems, shyness, verbal issues) and more often than not, they will tell you: "I don't know how I got rid of it," or, "it just happened over time," or, you get one million different answers. So autism researchers have no clue on how to apply the same methods for the benefit of other children. They don't know what works and what doesn't work, even after 73 years of research.

You'll end up looking with envy why other children are making progress while your children are stuck perennially with their problems. And then you wonder what you may have done wrong, and then you try to convince yourself, I can't possibly have done things wrong, I have done the most extensive research, and tried a million things. I have done the best I could have done. And then, you will tell yourself, oh well, each child is different. The other guys are just luckier, they are just higher functioning.

That's the journey of the majority of the parents of autistic children. Is my description not accurate?

The thing is, autism is a connectivity issue. Once your brain is developed and connected, all problems are gone, for good. You can't develop these children from their weaknesses. If you do so, you are basically turning their lives upside down, and you'll be following the same failed paths of millions of parents out there.

This is a paragraph from Dr. Barry Prizant's book titled "Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism":

"Autism isn't an illness. It's a different way of being human. Children with autism aren't sick; they are progressing through developmental stages as we all do. To help them, we don't need to change or fix them. We need to work to understand them, and then change what we do."

To change what you do, your energy should be vested into developing your son. Start from what he likes, start from his strengths, expand from there. It's all about Yin and Yang. You can't solve the Yin without the Yang. You've gotta build up enough connections inside the brain of your children. Let's look at it this way: if you children are intellectually developed, they'll be able to work and be independent and have a good life. Who cares if they still need to wear a diaper? Who cares if they have food pickiness, sensory issues, if your children are millionaires like Bill Gates? Don't turn the lives of these children upside down. Know what's important. Go back and stare at the Connected Development Graph one more time, then you'll understand why some people grow out of autism issues, while others don't. Then you will understand why those people that have grown out of their problems all have a different answer for you. Then you'll understand why it's futile to do autism research by focusing on the shortcomings of these children.


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28 Nov 2016, 10:13 am

KimD wrote:

In general, I would recommend against trying to sneak in foods (unless you're really sure he won't notice), because it can backfire, damaging your son's trust in you and what you feed him, and turn him off from those foods for quite a long time. For example: one of my students (a 5-year-old) loved Pringles, so his mom slipped a flavored Pringle into the middle of his usual lunch box supply, but he noticed the difference right away and for a long while, declined all Pringles entirely--and those are one of the two or three foods he regularly eats! He timidly returned to eating them after he’d checked each and every one, to be sure there were no “stowaways” aboard. I don’t blame her at all for trying, but we were all relieved that it didn’t set him back further than that. You know your son best, though, so go with your gut, so to speak!


^^^This is also a very good point. Trust is the most important thing in building rapport, communication and anything else you might want to do, and just in relationships, in general.. I made the mistake of trying to sneak something into a cheese sandwich and got caught and my son would open all the sandwiches up and look inside for about a year afterwards. I don't think it undermined anything else, thankfully, but I felt bad every time he would do that



Daddy63
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06 Dec 2016, 3:17 am

Trust is so important but not just trusting that you won't hide something. I think it's even more important that your child trusts you when you ask him/her to try something new. You need to be certain that they will like that new food. Don't go for huge steps to totally new things. Take it very slowly. Introduce foods he already likes but in different forms.

It has been a very slow process but we have been successful moving my son from bread and cheese to grilled cheese and now to cheese quesadillas. It took a year but now he eats them all.

Similarly he has moved from sweet potato fries to baked sweet potato moving very gradually. I cut the fries myself and very slowly increased the size until it was 1/4 of a potato now coating them with olive oil and baking them.

One last thought is you might try making pizza with him if you don't already. Allow him to see the specks of herbs in the sauce as he spreads it. Then maybe start with 1/4 of one leaf of fresh basil and chop it finely before mixing it with the sauce. If he accepts it, very slowly increase the amount each time. We now grow basil on our deck and my son picks it. It has taken 2 years but we can now add in chopped spinach as well. Typically we add at a cup of chopped basil and spinach these days and he tells everyone his favorite food is basil pizza.

Our ABA team spent or really wasted a lot of time trying to get him to try several new foods. After lots of tears, gagging and a couple of puking episodes he will very occasionally eat a small piece or 2 of apple.



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06 Dec 2016, 7:43 pm

My first concern, reading the OP, is that this all might be caused by the adderall. I've been on that stuff. Not only does it reduce your appetite, but it makes food taste kinda bland - just not the same.

Also, adderall might be making his anxiety worse. It's a stimulant. It's an exaggeration to compare adderall to cocaine, but if you look at movies about people getting all jittery on coke, its kind of a similar feeling, just in miniature.

Lots of parents are faced with this problem. Yes, the adderall (or other stimulant) makes them learn more efficiently. But that improvement comes with a price. It's not "free" progress. When we take it, we are basically just a little bit high. Some people don't experience stimulant medications this way, but I did. And I think my experience is fairly common in autism circles.