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Tuesday 21 Nov 2017

Get your kids talking about food!

child using aac device

Article by Stephanie Ekis, MS, CCC-SLP
Many children with autism could be described as being “picky” eaters. The reasons could be based on a sensory issue (e.g., discomfort with a particular smell), or even a randomly developed routine (Kroeger, 2010). Whatever the reason, eating can be a scary and unpleasant event for some children. When situations are uncomfortable or difficult to understand, there are things that you can do to support your child’s communication and help them better understand the expectations that have been set for them. March is National Nutrition Month, so let’s talk about how to support your child’s communication during mealtime.

Tip 1: Set clear expectations.
Use a visual representation of the sequence of events during mealtime. Try to pair an undesirable task with a desirable task. For example, if they need to try to eat a particular item, then pair it with a fun and motivating activity. It is important to provide a visual representation of the expectation.

Tip 2: Use a timer.
Consider using a visual timer to let your child know that it is time for a meal if they have difficulty with transitions. You can use a simple kitchen timer or a more specialized timer created to give visual information (e.g., Time Timer Audible)

Tip 3: Provide the opportunity and the means to comment during mealtime.
When I have to complete an unpleasant task, it always makes me feel better if I can complain a little bit or make comments about how I’m feeling. Make sure that you child has the words to be able to comment during mealtime. If you child is non-verbal, use a picture board or voice output communication device (e.g., Xpress) to give them the ability to make comments or requests.

DynaVox Maestro: Quickfires – Sample Communication Messages

  • Mommy! Wait.
  • Yucky.
  • Good.
  • All done.
  • Daddy! More.
  • Let me.

Tip 4: Provide choices.
Give your child the tools they need so that they can make choices during mealtime.

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