Looking for a Place to Belong? Join an ASNC Chapter

pender-pizza-and-pool-2

Pender County Chapter

Fall is a great time to join one of the Autism Society of North Carolina’s 50 Chapters and Support Groups around the state. The beginning of the new school year also marks the restart of the groups’ activities and events.

ASNC’s Chapters and Support Groups are led by generous parents or family member volunteers who join together with other concerned individuals to create a welcoming and inclusive community of support for individuals with autism and their families. “So many of our members tell us how happy they are to finally have somewhere to turn and how good it feels to not feel alone,” said Amy Irvin, mom and a member of the leadership team for the Sampson County Chapter.

lumberton-faith-workshop

Robeson County Chapter

Emily Green, a member of the Forsyth County Chapter said, “I consider these people my truest friends. I can trust them to watch (and understand) my kids or ask them for information about services, extracurricular activities, or medical advice. I love being part of such a supportive and accepting group of people that always have an answer, a suggestion, or know where to point you to help find one.”

If you live in one of the following areas, you can take part in one of our new or revitalized Chapters and Support Groups: Caldwell County, Halifax County, the High Country (Ashe, Alleghany, Watauga and Wilkes counties), Lee County, Macon County, Rowan County, Wayne County, or Wilson County.

Kristi Ford, Leader of the new Lee County Support Group, said the group has been planning meet-up events and playdates to get together regularly. “For this year, I’m most excited about seeing us mold together as a group, see friendships form, and for our children to become playmates,” she said. “Living a life of autism can be isolating for the whole family, so I hope we can reach families in our area to let them know that there are others walking the same journey and we can all have fun together.”

Jennifer Clapton, leader of the Halifax County Support Group, said, “We are excited about growing as a new chapter and increasing parent involvement. We also are very interested in offering ongoing social outings for our kids.”

Malinda Pennington said the Wilson County Chapter is excited about its second year. “We want to be able to support the unique needs of every family such as those with girls on the spectrum, young children school-age children, and adolescent/ adults with autism.”

No matter where you are, click here to find a group near you, or check out our online calendar to see events.

 

Advertisements

Q&A with Dr. Jed Baker, Autism Expert

 

jed-baker

On Friday, November 4, Dr. Jed Baker will lead a daylong conference that touches on two very important topics for families and caregivers: managing frustration and anxiety and teaching social skills. Dr. Baker graciously shared some insights and previewed his talk in a Q&A recently.

 

Why is it important for caregivers to think about managing their frustration and anxiety levels when interacting or working with their child or student?

We fight fire with water. To respond intelligently and with understanding to a challenging situation requires us to manage our own emotions as caregivers. Our own reactivity can hijack our better judgment and escalate the problem rather than resolve the issue.

Everyone experiences anxiety and frustration. How does the experience differ for those on the autism spectrum?

Social perception, sensory, language, and learning issues can make many situations more confusing, unexpected, and frustrating to those with autism. Difficulty transcending the moment can make a temporary problem, like not getting to play a videogame, seem like a life-threatening crisis.

You provide concrete strategies that address anxiety and frustration in caregivers and children with autism spectrum disorder. Can you provide a preview of one example?

Preventing frustration depends on understanding how an individual perceives a difficult situation. For example, not getting to do a desired activity can seem like an unbearable issue. Providing a timer or visual schedule can help an individual know he will get what he wants, allowing him to wait more calmly.

As another example, anxiety about confusing classwork can make kids feel ashamed and afraid to try. Learning how to undo the shame of asking for help and disentangling it from judgments about intelligence can free students to more calmly approach challenging work in an effort to grow.

The conference also addresses social skills, including skill acquisition and motivation to use social skills. What’s the difference?

Acquisition strategies refer to ways to teach skills. We need to pick strategies that match an individual’s language ability. Teaching a skill does not ensure the individual wants to learn or use the skill. Motivation refers to “what’s in it for the individual” to learn and use the skill. Sometimes we use external rewards like favored activities or objects as rewards for using a social skill. Yet more importantly for motivating socializing are natural rewards like wanting a friend or making the interaction so much fun the individual wants to interact.

The social skills portion of the day also spends time focusing on peer interactions, creating acceptance, and reducing bullying. Why are these three things so important?

Socializing is a two-way street. We cannot try just to get those with ASD to fit in but also to get others to reach out. And all students have a right to a safe and accepting environment. One key to anti-bullying is to empower the peer community to police itself with upstanding peers.

Want to learn more? Join us on November 4 in Raleigh. To learn more about the conference and register, click here. The ASNC Bookstore will also be at the event with Dr. Baker’s numerous books. Register soon; the early bird price is valid through midnight October 16.

Kids Loved and Accepted as They Are at New Camps

 

camp-carteret-075

Parker and a friend at ASNC’s Carteret County summer day camp

Six-year-old Marshall Wingfield loves people, but he becomes overwhelmed in public and has always been a bit of a homebody, his mom says.

fb_img_1472247588111

Marshall loves video games

“He wants so much to fit in and have friends,” said Elaina Wingfield of her son, who was diagnosed with autism last year during his kindergarten year. “But his challenges make that very difficult. He doesn’t understand personal space, proper speech volume, or the social cues that come natural to us.”

This summer, Marshall found a place where he could make friends and be himself: ASNC’s new Greenville summer camp. “This is the first place he’s ever been that he wants to come back every day,” his mom said. “Marshall made friends that he wouldn’t have met otherwise. He felt confident attending the camp.”

fb_img_1472247633436Marshall liked it so much that he is attending the new afterschool program, as well. “It’s quiet, and they know how I am,” he explained to his mother when she asked why he wanted to go. After camp, he didn’t have to spend hours decompressing at home as he does after being in other environments, such as grocery stores, Elaina said. And they have a pool; one of Marshall’s favorite activities besides Minecraft is swimming. “He knew when they would go and how many days he’d have to wait,” she said.

The new programs in Greenville are part of an array of Social Recreation programs in four Eastern NC locations made possible by funding from Trillium Health Resources. The initiative supports children and adults with autism through programs in underserved areas of the state, helping them to improve their social and communication skills, peer networks, and physical well-being.

Social Recreation Services Director Sara Gage said, “We want them to feel love for who they are. We like to provide an environment that understands them and gives them the opportunity to flourish just as they are.”

Summer Day Camp ran from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays with a counselor-to-camper ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 based on self-help and behavioral needs. Campers ages 4-22 enjoyed swimming, arts and crafts, gym time, and all of the typical camp activities in Greenville, Wilmington, Carteret County, and Brunswick County. “As a parent, I loved getting the many arts and crafts they did,” Elaina said. “He even colored! He colored! He hates to color!”

In addition to benefiting the individuals with autism, the programs help families by providing respite and care tailored to individuals with autism. “This camp meant peace of mind,” Elaina said. “Like so many parents of autistic children, we weren’t in a financial position to pay for a summer camp that could or would accommodate his needs. Anything extra we have these days is going to medications, co-pays, and deductibles.”

camp-carteret-053

For Parker Samples’ parents, the day camp in Carteret County meant they could both keep their jobs this summer. Parker is a goofy and funny 12-year-old, always seeking any attention he can get. But he also has trouble communicating his wants and needs, and this can lead to frustration and meltdowns. Parker has always had to be taken care of by a family member rather than going to a camp during his school breaks or an afterschool program with other children.

His parents have made many career decisions based on what is best for their son, from cutting their hours, to giving up overtime, to passing up better positions in favor of schedule flexibility. This summer, they planned for his father, Bud, to quit his job to care for Parker during the days and find another job at night.

But then Parker was accepted to the new day camp. Much more than saving their jobs, the camp made Parker happy. “I think his favorite parts of camp are all the people,” Bud said. “All the attention he gets from everyone, even when it disrupts what they are doing at the time, is always so positive.

“I really can’t convey how this summer has helped Parker and us at home, just knowing that there really are people who care and understand what these special kids need. It’s not just a place for them to go during the summer, it’s not just the pool and bouncy houses – which are awesome – it’s the people that you trust with your kid, to make sure they are happy and safe and more so understood.

“There are reasons that they act how they do sometimes, from fear to anxiety or maybe they just don’t like the color a wall is,” he said. “And this was a whole house of people that understood all of that, and more than just understood, they accepted it and Parker into their hearts.”

 

To learn more

For more information about ASNC’s Social Recreation programs, please go online to www.autismsociety-nc.org/socialrecreation or contact the director for your area:

  • Greenville: SRP_Greenville@autismsociety-nc.org
  • Wilmington: SRP_Wilmington@autismsociety-nc.org
  • Brunswick: SRP_Brunswick@autismsociety-nc.org
  • Carteret County: SRP_Carteret@autismsociety-nc.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share Your Public Policy Priorities

 

survey-checklist-615x389

This article was contributed by Jennifer Mahan, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at ASNC.

The Autism Society of North Carolina advocates with policymakers at the General Assembly, state departments and divisions, and LME/MCOs to help create better services and opportunities for people on the autism spectrum. We are developing our public policy targets for the two-year legislative cycle that begins in January 2017.

Please help us by taking this quick survey, which asks you to prioritize potential public policy targets for the next two years:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HYCB3G3

ASNC is committed to working with policymakers to expand access to services and supports, expand access to health care, improve education for children and young adults, expand access to employment, improve services infrastructure, and ensure that people on the spectrum are able to exercise their rights and live in a just world. Given the MANY needs for public policy advocacy across all of these issues and the limited resources with which to advocate, ASNC must focus on a select number of policy issues as we move forward.

Whether you are an individual on the spectrum, a family member, friend, professional, or other person who cares about people with autism, we want to know what you think. You are a person for whom we advocate, so your input into our public policy targets is crucial. And yes, choosing which issues are most important to you among the many important issues is difficult. We recognize that difficulty and appreciate your willingness to help us make the tough choices.  Our final public policy targets will be released in January 2017.

If you have questions about North Carolina policy issues, please contact Jennifer Mahan, ASNC Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at jmahan@autismsociety-nc.org or 919-865-5068.

Recognize Your ASNC Direct Support Professional

Direct Support Professional: a formal name that doesn’t evoke the dedication and love that our hundreds of staff members show every day. Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) carry many more titles; they are Community Skills Instructors, Employment Supports Instructors, General Instructors, Residential Instructors, Camp Counselors, and more. But even these names do not tell the true story of the critical support they provide.

Tyler and Carey

Tyler and his DSP, Carey Bowman of ASNC

Every day, DSPs work one-to-one with individuals with autism, teaching skill acquisition and supporting them in reaching their goals. They become trusted friends, natural supports, and honorary members of families. They are the backbone of our organization.

We value and respect DSPs every day, but each year we truly celebrate them during Direct Support Professional Recognition Week in September, this year the 11th through 17th. During that week, stay tuned to our social media to hear stories of the impact these caring and talented folks are making in lives across NC.

Each September, we also accept nominations for the John and Claudia Roman Direct Service Award. The annual award was endowed by Lori and Gregg Ireland to honor Christine Roman, the ASNC Direct Service Professional who worked with their son, Vinnie. It was named for her parents, John and Claudia Roman. Families who have a DSP from the Autism Society of North Carolina may obtain a nomination for this award by emailing Kathy Cockrell. Nominations will be accepted through Sept. 30.

Last year’s winner of the Roman Award was Clary Lamberton of Asheville. In previous years, we have honored Melissa Mulcahey (2014), Allen Cohen (2013), Tanya Ahner-Mejia (2012), Lori Sweeney (2011), and Emily Bennett (2010) with this award for their tireless dedication, their ability to go above and beyond, and making a real impact in the lives of individuals with ASD and their communities.

Listen to what some parents have said about their DSPs:

“It’s because of people like her that our kids are loved and accepted and our families are comforted.”

“Rather than just stick him in a job, check him off the list and move on, he considered what would be best for Alex in the long run.”

“Her calm approach has been so valuable in helping my son self-regulate.”

“She has tirelessly worked to ensure that he enjoys life to the fullest.”

The Autism Society of North Carolina employs hundreds of direct support professionals; without their dedication and continued efforts, many individuals on the autism spectrum and their families would not have needed support services. Some come to work for ASNC for a few months, others stay for a lifetime.

DSPs are the largest percentage of ASNC’s employees, and we learn how to improve what we do as an organization and as a system from them. Many full-time ASNC employees and managers got their start in the field through direct support work. Because of this understanding throughout the organization of the importance of DSPs, our ultimate hope is that the life of an individual with autism is improved in some way through their work.

We invite you to give your DSP a pat on the back, nominate them for the Roman Award, or make a donation in their honor for a job well done during Direct Support Professional Recognition Week (or any week).

Run/Walk for Autism: A Day “I Can Just Be Me!”

mile3 square.jpg

Two years ago at the 2014 Triangle Run/Walk for Autism, 7-year-old Abigail was in tears after crossing the finish line. She told her worried mother that she was sad because she didn’t win the race. Abigail’s parents explained to her that finishing first was not their goal.

The little girl with autism took the lesson to heart before the 2015 race. “She surprised me last year when we crossed the finish and she exclaimed how happy she was,” said her mother, Emily Hamilton. “She said that we are winners in this race because we can make people’s lives better.”

teamThe Hamilton family has indeed been making people’s lives better, raising more than $2,000 in the Autism Society of North Carolina’s biggest fundraiser of the year with their team, Piece, Love and Abigail. (The team’s name is a play on the puzzle piece that often represents autism, but they also have fun by sporting tie-dye and other hippie-themed attire, Emily said.)

But to the Hamiltons, the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism is much more than a fundraiser. “It gives us a chance to be with so many others on the spectrum,” Emily said. “It is a whole day where you know there will be no judgment, just understanding. It gives all of us a chance to see representation of the entire spectrum and socialize with families just like us.

“Abigail says it is a day ‘I can just be me!’”

Unfortunately, Abigail has not always had that opportunity. Her parents noticed she was different from other kids her age when she was as young as 1 and wasn’t meeting developmental milestones, but their pediatrician advised them that she would catch up. By the time Abigail was 3, the gap was widening between her and her day-care classmates. She behaved aggressively and was sensitive to sounds, lights, and other sensations.

“She was socially withdrawn and was struggling in almost every task asked of her,” Emily said. “Her behavior seemed to be reflecting all of the inner turmoil she was dealing with. We were at a loss.”

When she was 4, Abigail was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, and auditory processing disorder at UNC Hospital. Emily said their family and friends were surprised by the diagnoses. “Many people said things such as ‘But she’s a girl, they don’t have autism.’ Others said, ‘But she looks so normal.’”

Emily said this lack of understanding is another reason the family supports the Autism Society of North Carolina. This year, the family from Creedmoor started fundraising for their team early as part of Autism Awareness Month in April, and they made bracelets, lanyards, watchbands, and other items to reward those who donated. Abigail has enjoyed helping to make the bracelets, practicing her fine-motor skills, and interacting with donors, practicing her social skills. “So in a way, although we are helping the efforts of ASNC, the fundraising activities have actually helped her,” Emily said. “We have also found this to be a super way for us to have some mother-daughter time, which is so special to me!”

abby2.jpgAbigail is now 9 and is much more successful in school. She has received speech and occupational therapy for the past three years, and her mother has relied on resources from the Autism Society of North Carolina. “I found that the information provided by ASNC was very helpful in teaching myself and others about autism and was crucial in helping Abigail at school,” Emily said. “The IEP and services information proved to be invaluable as she progressed in school. We were able to utilize many of the tools and recommendations to formulate a plan that worked at school as well as home.”

Abigail has also benefited from her service dog, a French Briard that was trained by a local group, Ry-Con Service Dogs. “Prior to getting Samson, Abby suffered from some pretty severe social anxiety. She was unable to go into public places such as restaurants and grocery stores due to sensory overload and anxiety,” Emily said. “Since Samson came along, that has all but subsided. She loves introducing Samson to people that she meets, and he keeps her calm even in the most stressful of situations.”

Samson will be by Abigail’s side at the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism, but it is not one of those stressful situations. On Oct. 8, Abigail will proudly lead her team of family and friends through downtown Raleigh, making sure to spread her message. “I’m just like everybody else, but at the same time I like being different!”

 

Step out to improve lives in the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism on Saturday, Oct. 8! The event in downtown Raleigh will include a USATF-certified 5K race, which is part of the Second Empire Grand-Prix Series; a 5K noncompetitive run; a recreational 1-mile run/walk; and a kids’ dash. Celebrate autism awareness and acceptance with a kids’ play area, music, refreshments, and vendor space that will showcase local businesses, service providers, support resources, and sponsors. Proceeds will fund local programs of the Autism Society of North Carolina.

Register today: www.trianglerunwalkforautism.com

Promoting Healthy Eating

picky eater

This article was contributed by Jessica B. LeBoeuf, Ph.D., a member of ASNC’s Clinical Services Department.

 

“When he’s hungry enough, he’ll eat.”

How often have we heard this from well-meaning family, friends, and medical providers? While most young children exhibit food preferences and some food selectivity, other children display persistent and highly restrictive eating patterns. Almost 70% of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder exhibit selective and restrictive eating patterns. Some children’s food selectivity may be so severe that they only eat one or two foods. Extreme eating patterns can lead to caloric and nutritional deficits, which are especially concerning in young children as growth and brain development may be affected.

In addition to the health and developmental effects of persistent restrictive eating patterns, it also causes disruptions to family life and may interfere with the child’s daily functioning. Eating only certain foods may affect the social activities that a child participates in. Families may be forced to cook special meals each day or to eat at only certain restaurants, if at all. Planning for school lunches can become challenging as well. Mealtimes are often stressful for the family as there may be disagreements between the adults on how to get the child to eat, along with crying and other avoidant behavior by the child.

Children and adults with feeding difficulties may display the following behaviors:

  • Eating a limited variety of foods that might be a specific brand, shape, texture, or color or from only one food group
  • Difficulty advancing food texture, such as resistance to moving from pureed foods to table foods, or texture selectivity, such as only eating crunchy foods
  • Eating only with fingers or specific utensils, dishes, or presentation of food
  • Disruptive behaviors such as gagging, batting the spoon, crying, swiping food, or self-injury

Parents of selective eaters are often advised to withhold the child’s preferred foods under the notion that the child will eventually eat. However, this advice may be misguided and even harmful, particularly when used with children who are highly selective eaters. I know a family whose child only ate a specific fast-food brand pizza, with the pizza needing to be fresh from the restaurant at each meal. This certainly was interfering, particularly as his mother traveled across town to deliver a fresh slice of pizza to the child each day at school. The parents were concerned about their son’s eating behavior and aware that this eating pattern was not healthy or functional and was difficult to sustain. The mother followed suggestions to withhold the pizza, under the assumption that the child would eventually eat other foods, “when he’s hungry enough.”  The problem was, he didn’t start eating other foods and went days without eating anything at all.

Withholding preferred foods is not always effective in getting a person to eat non-preferred foods and can result in further complications. This specific child not only refused non-preferred foods, but he also started refusing liquids, ultimately requiring hospitalization for dehydration. While this is an extreme example, just withholding preferred foods is not a surefire solution to increase food intake, and may even be harmful and contraindicated. However, there are safe and effective strategies that can be used to increase food variety.

 

What can I do to help my child eat a wider variety of foods?

Medical evaluation

Start with a thorough medical evaluation. Some restrictive eating habits are related to current or a history of medical conditions such as reflux, food allergies and intolerances, gastro-intestinal abnormalities, oral motor delays, and swallowing problems. Makes sense, right? If eating makes us feel bad or is effortful and difficult, we’re less likely to want to do it. Ensure your medical provider has ruled out any medical complications related to food consumption and all identified medical conditions are being effectively treated and monitored. Consult with your child’s physician or nutritionist on the recommended daily caloric intake for your child. After a thorough medical evaluation has been completed, you can promote healthy eating habits with positive and effective strategies.

Mealtime routine and structure

  • The family, including the child, should eat meals and snacks at about the same time every day. Eating and mealtimes should be predictable for your child.
  • Have your child sit at a table and in the same seat for meals. Make sure the seat and table are an appropriate size and height for the child. The child should be comfortable sitting at the table.
  • Limit your child’s “grazing” and snacks between meals. When people eat throughout the day, they are often less hungry and therefore less interested in eating at mealtimes.
  • Have a time limit for the meal, which should not exceed 15-30 minutes for young children. Developmentally, most young children are unable to sit for long periods of time and may engage in disruptive behaviors when made to sit too long.

Food presentation

  • Some children may need to get comfortable with having non-preferred foods near them, either near their plate or even at the table. Just having the child sit at the table with family members during mealtimes will provide the opportunity for exposure to new foods.
  • Initially, present very small amounts of novel and non-preferred foods. We don’t want the child to be overwhelmed, so don’t fill the plate with a new food. For example, just put one pea on the plate. As the child becomes successful with accepting new foods, slowly increase the amount of food presented to the child.
  • Be persistent! It can take a child trying a new food 10-20 times before she readily accepts it.
  • Provide choices of novel and non-preferred foods. Allow the child to have some control over the food they consume. For example, ask your child whether they would like to eat chicken or pork at dinner. Similarly, if two vegetables are cooked, present the two options to your child and prompt him to pick the vegetable to put on his plate.
  • If your child’s diet still includes jarred baby food, consider making preferred pureed foods. While this is more time consuming, the homemade pureed foods will taste the same as the regular texture foods that are already prepared in the home. Once the child is used to the taste and texture of homemade pureed foods, advancing the texture (that is, moving to more solid food) should be easier because the taste will not change, only the texture. Note: Ensure that your child is safe to advance food texture by consulting with her medical professional.

Develop reward systems to encourage healthy eating

  • Some parents may think, “Why should I reward my child for something she should already be doing?” Children who are selective eaters are often not internally motivated to expand their food repertoire. Additionally, some children don’t recognize hunger cues at all. Therefore, we must provide the motivation.
  • Reinforce trying new foods. Reinforcement can include extra electronics time after the meal or simply a lot of praise and social attention. You can even use a token board or sticker chart to keep track of bites and then provide rewards at certain levels. Find what works for your child.
  • A natural reward may be allowing the child to leave the dinner table early for consuming the food. For example, you tell your daughter once she finishes her meal, including the 3 green beans (non-preferred), she can leave the table to go play. Otherwise she will stay at the table until the time limit has been reached. Use of a timer may be helpful to signify the end of a meal. Ensure the amount of food on the plate is appropriate for the child’s development and be mindful to not encourage overeating. (Be careful using only food consumption criteria to end a meal, because this may be difficult to follow through. For example, you don’t allow your daughter to leave the table until she eats all of the green beans on her plate. Since we cannot make another person accept, chew, or swallow food, and if your child has a lot of stamina and does not want to eat those green beans, she’ll likely wait you out. In the end, it’s either sitting at the table all night (which is not realistic and certainly not recommended) or allowing the child to leave the table without following through (also not recommended). These contingencies often lead to frustration for both the parent and child.)
  • Celebrate the success! Make a big deal out of appropriate mealtime behavior. Appropriate mealtime behavior may be taking a small bite of a new food, sitting at the table for 5 minutes, or tolerating a new food on their plate. Don’t be discouraged with slow progress; developing long-term, healthy eating habits takes time. Provide a lot of attention and praise to appropriate mealtime behavior.

Positively frame your language and limit attention to inappropriate mealtime behavior

  • Mealtime with children who are selective eaters can be a stressful and frustrating experience for both the child and the parent. Avoid using reprimands to correct the child’s mealtime behavior. Instead, tell him what he should be doing. For example, your son is tapping the fork on the table and not eating. Instead of saying “Stop playing with your fork!” say, “Pick up your fork and eat.” There are a lot of things a child shouldn’t be doing at the dinner table, so let’s tell him what he should be doing.
  • Do not talk about your child’s selective eating in front of her. Similarly, avoid lengthy discussions with your child on why she will or will not eat certain foods. Ask family members to limit discussion of selective eating in front of the child. We don’t want the child to learn to get attention from other people through selective eating. Conversely, provide a lot of positive attention when the child eats new foods.
  • Limit attention to inappropriate mealtime behavior, such as gagging, crying, and vomiting (not due to illness or choking). Remain calm when these behaviors occur and avoid removing the child or the food from the table following inappropriate behavior. Many children who are selective eaters do not want to sit at the table and be exposed to non-preferred foods. For example, if you remove peas when your son starts crying and allow him to leave the table, he will be more likely to cry the next time non-preferred foods are presented.
  • All family members should model appropriate eating behavior for the child. While most people have food preferences, it’s important to be mindful how we, as adults, respond to our non-preferred foods. Family members should avoid making negative comments about their own food preferences (for example, saying “that looks gross” or “broccoli tastes terrible,” making faces, or plugging your nose). Instead, talk positively about food. Children pick up on the behaviors of those around them!

 

I’ve tried it all to get my child to eat, but it doesn’t work. Now what?

The above strategies will work for many selective eaters. However, other children may need more specialized interventions. If your child continues to display restrictive eating patterns, contact a professional who is experienced in treating children with feeding disorders, such as a psychologist, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, or speech language pathologist.  If your child is not meeting their nutritional and/or energy needs, has experience significant weight loss, has a nutritional deficiency, is dependent on tube feedings or oral supplements, such as Pediasure or Boost, or their eating patterns significantly interfere with their daily functioning, contact your child’s physician.

Jessica B. LeBoeuf, Ph.D., a member of ASNC’s Clinical Services Department, can be reached at jleboeuf@autismsociety-nc.org.

ASNC’s Clinical Services Department staff is composed of PhD and master’s-level licensed psychologists, Board Certified Behavior Analysts, and former special education teachers. We provide individualized intensive consultation using evidence-based practices to support children and adults across the spectrum in home, school, employment, residential and other community-based contexts. We also deliver workshops to parents and professionals on a wide range of topics including but not limited to, strategies to prevent and respond to challenging behaviors, best practices in early intervention, functional communication training, and enhancing social understanding in individuals with autism.

 

Learn more

Here are some recommended books on this topic from the ASNC Bookstore:

Improving Speech and Eating Skills in Children with ASD

Eating for Autism

Special Needs Kids Eat Right

I’m Hungry, I’m Hungry, What Shall I Do?

Clearance CD:

Picture This: Visual Foods (Photo Software on CD-ROM) 4 left in stock

Clearance books in limited quantities:

Special Diets for Special Kids Two

Gluten/Casein Free Grocery Shopping Guide