Hi, thanks for joining me today for Feeding Children with Special Needs. This brief module is offered as a compliment to early care and education college courses that cover health, safety, and nutrition. It's not meant to be exhaustive, but simply to highlight some important, best practices and key information, as well as to provide you with additional resources.
There are many situations where a child might need a modification in the foods they're fed or the manner that they are fed. In this module, we'll review children with autism spectrum disorder or ASD, knowing that many of the adaptations that support their needs can also be helpful for other children with or without a formal diagnosis. We'll also touch on adaptive equipment that may be useful to consider, as well as medical diets to help you prepare for an experience with a child who needs greater dietary modifications. As with every child in your care, we encourage you to see the child first, celebrate their unique qualities and create opportunities for their individual growth and development.
Children with autism spectrum disorder, A S D may have very mild to very severe sensitivities to foods texture, its appearance or its taste. Just as they might be sensitive in other areas of your classroom.
They may also have side effects to medication that can cause changes to their appetite. Because they might be unable to tolerate some foods or even whole food groups, remember that they are at risk for developing nutritional deficiencies that can impair their health. As a childcare provider, your role in supporting children with ASD or any neurodivergence is critical.
Start by learning as much as you can about each individual child's current capabilities and then work with their family and healthcare providers to determine what expectations they have for the child while they're in your care. Every child with ASD is unique and will need an individual approach. Work with their family and health professionals to ensure each child's feeding plan meets their nutritional needs as well as their sensitivities.
There's some basic things that are likely to be helpful for children with ASD that may also be helpful to other children in your care. Many children benefit from a consistent schedule, offering choices, keeping the interaction supportive and keeping your energy relaxed and ready can help the child to stay calm as well.
The child's family and healthcare team may offer suggestions like using divided plates or other mealtime supplies that can help.
Most importantly, create lots of opportunities for two-way communication with the child's family, and when you have permission also with the child's healthcare team. They'll be able to give you lots of clues about the situations and strategies that are most beneficial for the child, as well as key stressors or triggers.
The child's healthcare team will also be able to offer strategies and support for your setting that might be new or different from what the child has experienced before. Your partnership and patients will help children with ASD continue to engage and make progress at mealtime.
In addition to children with ASD you may have children with other types of differences in your care. For some kids who have fine or gross motor delays or other types of musculoskeletal impairments, adaptive plates, bowls, cups, and utensils can be used as part of their therapeutic treatment plan. Using these special tools, supports children's growth, their independence, and their eating success, you'll likely be working with their family and an occupational therapist as part of their team.