What Are The Special Nutritional Needs For Children With Autism?

By Ishana Deb, Contributing Writer
October 13, 2016
Nutrition for autistic children

It is not easy to care for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This is a serious disability which afflicts children during the formative stages of in their lives, and is very difficult for parents and teachers to deal with.

Children with autism have many needs, especially when it comes to nutrition. Kids with ASD should be given a special diet – that is healthy, balanced and gluten-free.

Food behavior of autistic children

As nutritionist Joan Guthrie Medlen, Med, RD, explains: “Whenever a child has a disability the importance of nutrition escalates. For a child with ASD, a healthy, balanced diet can make a world of difference in their ability to learn, how they manage their emotions and how they process information.”

Children with autism have difficulty sitting through their meals and may not get all the nutrition they should be getting, such as calcium and protein. They tend to be very picky when it comes to food and will have specific tastes, colors, textures and smells that they are sensitive to.

It is very difficult to get them to try new foods, especially foods that are soft. You may find that your child avoids certain types of foods completely, and will refuse to budge no matter how hard you try to convince him or her to try the food.

Nutrition for autistic children

You can try different approaches when introducing your child to new food types or nutrition. You could grow the vegetables in your garden, and involve your child in the gardening duties, so that they can watch the vegetable grow, prepare a healthy and nourishing meal from it, and then introduce the child to the new food choice with no pressure.

Similarly, you could take the child to a supermarket and ask them to pick fruits and vegetables of their choice, so that you can cook healthy and tasty meals out of that using their chosen ingredients. At every stage, make sure that your child knows that he or she is in control. The goal is to make them familiar with different food choices and lead them to healthy eating habits.

Special nutrition for autistic children

  • Probiotics

    Some kids with autism may have irregular bowel movements because of taking too many medications, such as antibiotics. These medications destroy the “good bacteria” or the gut bacteria, which is so important for digestion.

    That is why you should give your child probiotics to help restore the health of their guts and improve their digestive system. Curd, yogurt, and buttermilk are recommended.

  • Avoid sugar as much as possible

    Maintaining the proper blood sugar level is a must, as children with ASD or autistic children display a low glucose tolerance. They are not able to handle high sugar intake. That is why you shouldn’t give them any refined carbohydrates such as chocolate, sweets, soft drinks or sugary juices. Instead, give them healthier options during snack time such as salad, nuts, protein bars, etc.

  • Special Nutritional for Children with Autism
  • Omega 3 fatty acid

    Essential fats such as Omega 3 are a must. They provide essential nutrition for the brain, improve mood, behavior, imagination and sleep patterns. They also help the child focus better. Foods that are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids such as walnuts, cod liver oil, tuna fish, egg yolk, salmon, sardines and Chia seeds are recommended.

  • Vitamins and minerals

    A study done in France on 60 autistic children found that giving them vitamin B6 and magnesium supplements helped them a great deal with their learning difficulties. Zinc supplements are also beneficial for children with autism. You should provide your child with leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, collard greens and Swiss chard as well as with other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage. These are excellent foods for the brain and are rich in all essential vitamins and minerals.

  • Regular meal times

    Kids with autism have to work harder than other children at mealtimes. As a parent, you have to work harder as well. This means keeping the kitchen clean, maintaining an enthusiastic attitude, having natural sunlight as much as possible in the dining room and arranging the furniture in a streamlined, simple way that works best for your family.

  • You should make the meals predictable and have a set routine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with snacks in between. Autistic children or children with ASD cannot handle any much variation in a routine; they want things to be predictable and consistent.

Also, it is very important to focus on the meal and not to switch on the TV or have any distractions during mealtime. Make every breakfast, lunch and dinner a special event, one that your child will enjoy.

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