by Colleen Hammond, M.A., BCBA, LABA – Northeast Arc’s Autism ABA Services
Sometimes it can be tricky to introduce new foods to your child with autism spectrum disorder. Some children with ASD stick to a few favorite foods and are resistant to change. There are several ways that you can begin to introduce new foods into your child’s diet. The most important thing to remember is to start small. You can’t expect your child to immediately begin consuming a new food upon presentation. Here are some strategies that can help when introducing new foods.
1. Tolerance. If your child is highly resistant to trying new foods then you may begin by simply having them tolerate it on their plate. Let them examine, touch and explore this new food.
2. Modeling. Try new foods with your child. Model a typical food consumption chain – SNIFF, KISS, LICK, PUT IN MOUTH, EAT. They don’t necessarily have to complete all steps but you can start with the first few.
3. Make it Fun. I like to create new food games with some of my clients. Sometimes I create a board game of high level interests. When you land on certain spots then everybody consumes a bite of the new food. I also make a matching game where if you match an “eat” symbol then a new food is consumed.
4. Use Visuals. Use a visual board to indicate how many bites of the new food must be consumed or what will happen after they consume the new food (e.g., First/Then). This makes it more concrete and easier to understand.
5. Praise!! Make a big deal if your child consumes a new food. You want to make it as rewarding as possible. You can also reinforce the consumption of new foods by rewarding with a highly preferred food (e.g., you give your child a small piece of candy after eating a carrot).
It can be difficult to introduce new foods to your child with ASD but with patience and a few tricks up your sleeve, you can make it happen!