How can a Dietician help a Child with Autism?

How can a dietician help a child with autism

Parents of children with autism try different approaches to help their kids succeed. After consulting the therapists, they seek treatment options such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, applied behavioural analysis (ABA), aquatic therapy, animal therapy, play therapy, along with other therapies including a perfect diet plan for autism.

For those with children on the spectrum, mealtime can be the most daunting task!To get the most out of the mealtime experience, it is important for parents to understand the four main challenges faced by children having autism.

1. Sensory challenge
2. Fine and gross motor problems
3. Colour preference
4. Food dislikes

Most children with autism can be demanding, selective and particular about the foods they eat. A registered dietician or nutritionist can identify the health issues in children and also give satisfying answers about diet plan and supplements to help eat well and stay healthy healthfully. An autism dietician can provide help by:

Managing Food Selectivity

A majority of children with autism have problems with food selectivity.They are more likely to avoid foods and show fear of trying new foods(neophobia), unlike their siblings and peers.As a large number of individuals with autism have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), it can affect the preferences of the foods they eat. Eating food is a sensory-rich experience where the child can:

  • Smell the aroma of the food
  • Feel the texture with each portion
  • Hear the crunch of crisp food
  • Sense the temperature (hot/cold)
  • See the colours
  • Perceive the appearance of the food

For a child with SPD, this can be an anxiety-provoking experience.

A registered dietician work with parents to help children increase their food selection by chalking out a perfect autism diet plan.  They work in collaboration to increase their food intake.

Solving gastrointestinal problem

Children with autism exhibit developmental disabilities and are more prone to experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. These issues could be related to,

  • Food sensitivities
  • Imbalance of the gut bacteria
  • Low fiber diet
  • High casein consumption
  • Less water intake
  • No physical activity.

Food Sensitivities

Parents must know the difference between food allergies food sensitivities. A ‘food allergy’ is an immune system reaction that follows soon after the consumption of certain food resulting in digestive problems and hives. Whereas, ‘food sensitivities’ cause chronic inflammation in the body and gut and body, leading to some of the symptoms such as:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Functional Diarrhoea ,
  • Migraine, Epilepsy,
  • Irritable Bowel,
  • Insomnia,
  • Depression,
  • Fibromyalgia

Weight Management

Food selectivity in children with autism can cause them to be underweight and malnourished. By eating only a few selected food, they do not get the essential calories and nutrients, to stay healthy and maintain a normal weight and show other signs of nutrient deficiency too. With a perfect autism diet plan, a dietician can treat nutrient deficiencies and help the kids grow in good physical shape.

Solve sleep issues

Sleep issues are commonly linked to gastrointestinal problems. People with autism have difficulty digesting gluten & casein.Nutritionists opt for ‘autism diet’ which is a gluten- and casein-free food prescribed for people diagnosed with the digestive disorder. Foods that contain gluten such as wheat, rye and barley are eliminated and also are dairy products. It has been noticed that when the gastrointestinal issue in a child is solved, the sleep issue also gets resolved.

When opting for a diet plan for autism, it is advisable for parents and caretakers to consult with a registered nutritionist. To know about the best dieticians or nutritionists, near your vicinity, kindly follow the link here.

Author: autismconnectassociation

Autism Connect is a voluntary group based in Mumbai, India formed by parents and professional care-takers of children on the autism spectrum. Parenting and caring for a child with autism is a special responsibility in itself. There are doubts, questions and uncertainties in our minds. At Autism Connect, we endeavor to collect literature on evidence based practices (with special emphasis on newer emerging therapies) in the management of autism and share it with autism associations and organizations across the world with the hope that these associations disseminate and distribute this to their members and parents of children with autism.

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