July 4, 2012

Problem Feeders

Parents can become overwhelmed and frightened when their child refuses to eat. Many struggle at mealtime, hoping to find a way for their child to eat and drink without resistance. To best address these challenges, we need to discern if the child is a problem feeder, learn why they are not eating, and provide avenues for parents to get professional and medical guidance, if necessary.

Some signs and symptoms of problem feeding are: eating fewer than 20 different foods, taking too long to eat (generally over 45 minutes).

Some signs and symptoms of problem feeding are:
  • eating fewer than 20 different foods
  • taking too long to eat (generally over 45 minutes)
  • refusing food
  • vomiting, gagging, or choking when eating
  • inappropriate behaviors surrounding mealtime (e.g., hitting, kicking, throwing food)
  • refusing entire categories of food textures or food groups
  • tantrums when presented with new foods
  • refusing to eat a once-favorite food and never reinstating that item back into his food inventory
  • medical complications leading to poor growth

While eating fewer than twenty different foods or taking longer than 45 minutes to eat can be signs of feeding problems – these are not uncommon behaviors for a child with autism; typically, additional symptoms are present with problem feeders. For example, if a child ate fewer than 20 foods and took a long time to eat but was generally happy and not gagging or crying at meals, then the child may not be a problem feeder. And, as Julie points out in her article, many children with limited diets...
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