Encourage children who are unable to verbally communicate to add variation to their diet
(2016) Encourage children who are unable to verbally communicate to add variation to their diet, no. 32.
Background: Autistic children are often found to follow a very limited diet, resulting in excessive or under nutrition. A lot of autistic children are nonverbal; therefore require the use of communication aids to request their food choice. Due to the limited diet they follow and their alleged "picky eating", this puts them at risk of many nutritional deficiencies which can cause other health problems in later life if the intakes are not improved. Subject Group: The subject group involved in this case study were three children from a class in St Crispins School in Edinburgh. Aim: Encourage children who are unable to verbally communicate to add variation to their diet. Materials and Method: A food frequency questionnaire was given to the parents in order to find out the typical weekly food intake. The results from the questionnaire were used to determine what food group would be best suited to add variation to. In this case it was fruit due to the limited intakes. Results were used to select fruit; both preferred and non-preferred to be offered during the tasting sessions to encourage the children to introduce new fruit to their diet. A matching game was also created using the Eat Well plate and PECS images to teach the children about the different proportions of the food groups in the diet, and the types of food that are included in each section. At the end of the 4 weeks an interview was conducted with the class teacher to gain feedback on how the project went. Results: The food frequency questionnaires indicated that the children followed a very limited diet, and did not consume a great deal of fruit therefore was not reaching the recommended 5 a day. However, when participating in the tasting sessions they ate a greater variation of fruit; even fruit that their parents say they never eat at home. Two new items of fruit were introduced to participant 1's diet, and 3 new pieces of fruit were added to participant 3's diet. Overall the project was successful at adding variation to 2 out of the 3 participants' diet. On a whole the project was reported to be an enjoyable experience for both the children and teacher, with the children becoming more adventurous in their snack choices and more engaged in the matching game as the project progressed. Conclusion: Tasting sessions with preferred and non-preferred food is an effective way to introduce new varieties of food to ASD children to encourage them to taste them. 2 out of the 3 participants introduced new fruit into their diet by the end of the intervention. Key Words: Autism, nonverbal, limited diet, picky eating, nutritional deficiencies, communication aids