Autistic Son is a Picky Eater

I have a 5 year old son who has autism and he is a picky eater. He only eats French fries chicken nuggets and pizza from Lil' Caesar's. Can anyone suggest any tips to get him to eat more foods?


Queede from Detroit, MI

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March 2, 20090 found this helpful

I would give him v8 fruit juice and put it in a fruit juice bottle, that should take care of some of the him his own little cup for it that is special. Buy him a special plate for vegetables, does he like cheese? I would blend a vegetable serving into tomato sauce on his pizza and give him that....also you can give him a small toy every end of the day that he eats vegetables...hope this helps......

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March 2, 20090 found this helpful

With autism my guess is he has come to associate shape and texture with tasty things to eat.


Try making your own chicken nuggets, fries and pizzas using different foods, and package them in the containers he has come to recognize.
For instance:
Fruit pizza; use cream cheese as the sauce and top with fresh sliced fruit.
And home made pizza sauce can be made with all kinds of veges in it. Best to use is minced carrot, zucchini, onion, fresh tomato, but the sky is the limit.
Maybe your home made pizza in a Ceasars box will get his attention.
Not that deep fried is the way to go, but batter fried veges like cauliflower and zucchini may look and taste somewhat like chicken nuggets to him.
Restaurants serve sweet potato fries, which are really easy to bake.
BUT most importantly, keep in mind that try and try again is the motto with any child. Their taste buds change quickly, and often times they will grow out of their "super taster" taste buds. BTW there really is such a thing as a super taster, and it just means that the persons taste buds are highly sensitive.

It puts me in mind of my mom who, when she became a diabetic, had to give up Hershey's chocolate. After not tasting it for a year or so, it was so saltly to her it was no longer appealing.
Good Luck

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March 2, 20090 found this helpful

I am a pediatric OT, and some of the suggestions we make are behaviorally based, such as:

1. Introduce a new food by its presence only at first. Put it in a smal ziploc bag, and put it on the table near his plate. Over a few days, move it to his plate, still in the bag.

2. Next step is to put it on his plate. The point is for him to tolerate its presence, he does not have to eat it. Encourage him, after a few more days, to try it, if he has words. Let him see you eating it. Reward him with a favored food if he tastes it. Bear in mind it can take MANY tries for a new food to be accepted.


Other suggestions are to try similar foods: other food made in nugget form, pizza rolls (like the mini, rectangular egg roll style ones), Try his favorite pizza with new toppings on it. There are "chicken fries" in the freezer case at the grocery store. Cut other foods into the familar shapes of fries, especially apples.

I note that the foods your son will eat have minimal odor. Is he also sensitive to scent? You might try other low odor foods.

I have seen a number of children with the same favorites; other things they would eat are hot dogs, doritos, and juice. If your son likes a certain condiment, you can try letting him dip other foods in it. I have known children who would eat anything as long as it was dipped in bbq sauce.

Some children are sensitive to the textures of foods. Simply looking at foods they don't favor is enough to make them gag. You have to keep trying.


(But you knew that.)

Ask his doctor how long it is OK to let him get "hungry" before caving? (Our toughest little guy was also diabetic, so HAD to eat--even then, he did not always eat...)

If he has a behaviorist, ask for tips. There are also lots of autism websites with bulletin boards. Good luck!

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March 2, 20090 found this helpful

I am the mother of a 6 year old on the autism spectrum disorder. He was diagnosed at 24 month. For the longest time our boy would only eat a very limited amount of things. I think the OT has some fantastic suggestions.

I can tell you what has worked so far for us. introducing new foods by sight alone and a lot of patience. We never did the ziploc bag thing, but that's a great idea if your child has issues with smell. We first started putting green beans on his plate every night at dinner time for a couple of weeks, then we would work on negotiations by attempting to get him to take a bite of this THEN he could have a preferred desert like marshmallow or something.


The condiment suggestion is also a good one to try if that option is available to you. The first bite of a green bean he willingly took was smothered in ketchup. Once you get your child to try the new food start introducing something else by site, but don't stop with the new food. Don't force them just keep waiting.

If he won't allow anything new on his plate, set it on another plate next to his dinner. Don't even ask him to taste it at first, just explain what it is and leave it alone. Be patient, it took two months to get my son to even take a bit of broccoli, but he'll eat it now without tantrums. We do sometimes have to be creative, but hey, they're kids.

Mara From Seattle, WA

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March 9, 20090 found this helpful

Hi I too have a 6 year old who is a picky eater too. She too has autisum. V8 Fusion is the way to go with her fruits and veggies. If he likes cheese try mac and cheese and cheese hot dogs. She still drinks from a sippy cup so she gets alot of apple juice or white cranberry peach which by the way is good. She also likes buttered noodles as long as I don't put parsley on it. She like toaster strudels and things like that I have used the pedi-sure with her a couple of times but it really makes her go. She does get choc or strawberry milk in the morning and she has her fruit snacks that she likes and cheese curls. If I make her kool-aid I use the splenda because I am diabeta.Runs in the family and dealing with the stress of raising her. Good luck, and my little one is trying stuff to I made homemade mac and cheese and she really like it. Also made her regular she like them too.

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March 24, 20090 found this helpful

(Submitted via email)

Mom I am not only an OT in early intervention I also have a child with autism. She is now 15 and eats anything. Not always the case. We use the "No thank you bite." I control what is being served, she controls the amount. We started with measuring spoons and she would take just enough to taste. We gradually increased the size of the spoon to now be a tablespoon. It was completed over many months. We still introduce new foods to her this way with the tablespoon.

The rule is 1 spoon and that's all. If you like it you may have more. If not you do not have to have anymore and say "No Thank You." I also allowed her to use her fingers to feel the texture of the food. She will smell the food. She will also help prepare the food. Like I said it took many trials and months to get her on board but it has been successful for 12 years.

Believe me, I'm amazed what she will eat. If you receive a no thank you 1 time try again at another time. Food preferences change over time. I introduced this to the EI site I work at and we have begun to see success even with our most pickiest eaters. I know this is frustrating but hand in there you are not alone.

OT mom

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April 27, 20090 found this helpful

Glad all of you are handling the gifts god gave you so well. I have two wonderful child all healthy, But I too went throught the bouts about not eating things. I even resorted to putting frozen spinach in my brownie mix. My husband and son didn't notice a thing. But now my son 17yrs. and goodness there's nothing he won't eat. But try this book "Deceptively Delicious" by Jessica Seinfeld, it's great for picky eaters. You can get it at your local library to try before you buy. But still have them try good wholesome food' Like mom always said one day you make like it. Yea right liver, beets, turnips yuck.

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December 28, 20100 found this helpful

I am the mama of a four year old autistic daughter who is thankfully for the most part not a picky eater. I second the Jessica Seinfed book, it's awesome. The other thing I would suggest is to not have processed food around make everything yourself, removing that fast food incentive might help you get past his only wanting those few things. I have a god son who is a white food child so I know how hard it can be. Everyone has some great ideas, the only thing I would add would be too make some of the recipes in Deceptively Delicious and also include veggies and fruit on the side. Model good eating habits and tell him how much you enjoy whatever it is. Next spring get some seeds and plant a small vegetable garden with him, help him take care of it even if its in pots. Plant some easy to grow things like lettuce, melons, tomatoes, and zucchini then cook with his produce he might like eating his own things better. Best of luck.

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