Aspergers Children Are Picky Eaters

Getting Your Asperger Child to Try New Food: As if coping with Aspergers (high functioning autism) wasn't difficult enough, meal times can become the battle of the century trying to get your Aspergers child to eat something, anything. Sometimes, due to their sensory issues, getting a child with Aspergers to eat can make you want to pull your hair out. One day they will eat something, and the next day they scream when it comes near their mouth … not to mention your fears as a mother or father that your child is not getting adequate nutrition.

So what do you do when your Aspergers child becomes a picky eater? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Make a game of trying a food. Have him help you prepare a new food, and then both of you taste it. Or make a food a funny color as a joke, and then eat it.

2. Make your Aspergers child a "menu". Have him choose an appetizer and a main course. Provide him with two choices in each category. Make both appetizer choices foods he does not typically eat. Serve him a very small portion of the appetizer he chooses, start with just one bite. Provide a choice of at least one main course food that he prefers, but tell him appetizer comes before the main course and he needs to choose and eat the appetizer before he will be given the main course. Stress to him that as soon as he tastes the appetizer it will be time for the main dish, and provide a lot of positive reinforcement for eating the appetizer. Try to stick with the same appetizer choices for about a week to allow him to get used to them. If he starts picking the same appetizer on consecutive days, begin increasing the serving size until he is eating a typical amount.

3. One option is to try the same food in another form. If they were unimpressed by the orange slices, provide them with a glass of orange juice.

4. One possible issue is the upset over food touching other food. This can be easily remedied by using divided plates that do not allow contact between areas and therefore, the food remains separated.

5. Outside of meals, try talking to him about new things in general, and how trying new things is sometimes scary – but also lots of fun. You could remind him of things he was scared of initially but now enjoys, and then point out that trying new foods is similar.

6. Won't touch green vegetables? Serve them some V8. Of course, this can become difficult and you can feel like you are running a restaurant if you have other children you are preparing meals for, but like all aspects of the Aspergers world, it takes adjustments. The less you indulge in the food fight the better chance you have of overcoming the issue.

Though coping with Aspergers and picky eating can be a somewhat daunting task, it is essential to keep trying and doing your best as a parent to provide your child with what they need. If you notice a complete lack of certain nutrients or foods in their diet, your best approach may be supplements. Do what you can, and in time it becomes easier and more like second nature. It's a long and gradual process, but stick with it.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook


Anonymous said...

Lately I have really been loosing my patience with my son. I find myself totally angry at his aspergers I should say. He seems to think about himslef first prior to listening to adults. Time to get ready is a tantrum because he is hungry.... screaming on the bus because he dropped his book...
I just need a reminder sometimes. I have been getting angry at him saying that if he wants more friends he needs to act like a good boy... and things like god is keeping a journal on him and he gets mad if he thinks of himself instead of doing what adults say...
ugh! I know I am wrong- but I want a littlle fear in him to remind him what is right and wrong. He is a good/sweet boy. but socially, as they all are, it is like he just does not even care how he acts.... too hard to explain in a short paragraph. I guess I just get tired sometimes of being on edge. and feel inside he knows what is right and wrong. but do I need a reminder that maybe he does not?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Hutten,

Luckily we don’t have a problem getting him to eat. It’s getting him to stop eating J Must be the ADHD combined with a big growth spurt. Well, I guess it’s a good thing that he wants to be chef.

Unknown said...

What about an Asperger's teenager who has no problem eating junk or trying junk (pizza,macaroni,ice cream) but when it comes to fruits and vegetables would rather spend 5 hours at the table refusing even a bite rather than try it???

Anonymous said...


I'm very grateful for all the wonderful information. I'm curious about messy eating and chewing on stuff....pencils, toys, paper, wood.. you name it he'll put it in his mouth.


Mark said...

To James: Good question ...I'll respond to this in the 10/2 post entitled "Aspergers Children and Pica" ...stay tuned!

Anonymous said...

my daughter is 12 and finally been confirmed as having aspergers her eating habits are chicken, veg and either chips or mash virtually every day. if she does have something different one day and enjoys it she will want that again for a few days to come then go back to chicken again. if i suggest something that she loved to eat a few weeks later i get told that she dont like it. its nice to know that this is part of her diagnosis so i just say oh so you dont like it today then

Anat said...

To James,

My son was going through an oral phase recently, during which he was chewing on everything in sight.

We found him chewy necklaces on amazon, and he wears that around his neck and chews on that if he feels the need to. This way, we provided what he needs for sensory stimulation, and avoided the socially inappropriate behavior of chewing on clothing, toys etc.

Good luck


Anonymous said...

How do I get my Aspergers son to try healthy foods? I have switched to a raw vegan/vegetarian diet in my house and I can't get him to try different foods. Our family has always eaten a traditional western diet, loaded with processed, packaged, fast foods, high in sugar, salt, fat and meats.

He is 14 years old and when I eventually coerce him into trying something, he has his mind already made up not to like it and just gags or spits it out no matter what it is. He won't even drink orange juice!

He has an electric toothbrush and I was hoping this would help reduce his sensitivities to textures and/or flavors but it hasn't seemed to help.

Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I really want to get the chemicals out of his system.

Anonymous said...

Deborah Clark
Yep, this story is all too familiar to me. My son is quite a challenge to feed! And when we visit a friend or relative, I always have to advise: The best bet is to keep it plain and simple. Don't add alot of seasonings, don't smother it wit...See More
Sunday at 9:41pm · Like · 4 people
Cathryn Perrotti Larkin i don't even like my foods touching :) my son had portion rules- as he grew to 6 ft tall, he wasn't eating more to accommodate his growth spurt. it took many months to help him adjust to the proper caloric intake- he was skin and bones in the meantime.
Sunday at 10:10pm · Like
Clair Collazo my son has always been like this hes 14 now and getting a little better..but can totally relate
Sunday at 10:35pm · Like
Rebekah Sundvall
My son will only eat crunchy foods or foods that are pureed. I learned early on how to make smoothies with veggies. :) And yes I know all about him "holding out". He would rather starve and be sick then eat something with a weird texture. Sometimes at restaurants he just doesn't eat. I'm okay with that but some family members would rather give in and buy him a milkshake which is SO irritating. I turn my back for a second and he's holding an ice cream cone. Please, if you are reading this and you are a family member that under minds the mothers' wishes, PLEASE STOP you are not helping....done ranting now. :)
Sunday at 11:42pm · Like · 2 people
Terrie Johnson Wolf
I love reading or hearing from other more vebal teens. My son has a hard time getting what is in his head out of his mouth - but he loves it when i find these little nuggets of asperger wisdom...It makes sense to me that he can only think of the taste of one food a time. I can't wait to ask him if that is what it is like for him, we are very sucessful at comimg up with plans once we know what his brain is saying and what his desires are saying. I might get a hug for this one! I am so thankful that everyone shares their experiences, so that other families can benefit.
Monday at 6:46am · Like · 1 person
Shanna Dawson-Ferguson My son would go rather starve too than eat foods that are mushy.
Monday at 11:57am · Like
Jessica Swift My daughter is 5 and she would rather starve than eat just about anything. She won't even drink milk-shakes or smothies. Basically she survives on pediasure!
4 hours ago · Like

Anonymous said...

Really great article with very interesting information. You might want to follow up to this topic!?! 2011

Anonymous said...

i have a 16 yearold and a 4 yearold with aspergers, i am really worn out with all the changes i have to make when they decide that today they dont like what they ate yesterday. my 16 yr old is a little bette now, he will tollorate food he wont eat to be on his plate(just in case he wants to try) and some time he does, but most of the time it end up in the bin. my 4yr old is a nightmare at the moment he has been given 4 milkshakes a day now and only eats bread and butter. well meaning family members try to presure them to eat normaly but this results in major melt downs. and his mood swings are really bad mainly die to lack of food.

Anonymous said...

My son does not like for foods to touch and he hates casseroles where everything is jimbled together. My solution was to seperatethe ingredients and then make him take 2 bites of the mixed food before he can eat the seperated food. My husband finds this ridiculous and infuriating which turns dinner into a nightly war. I don't know what to do anymore.Is my way really that dumb?

Anonymous said...

My son has had a similar limited diet his entire life and is now 10. We continue to struggle adding other foods and choose to pick our battles. He does take vitamins to make sure he gets the nutrients he needs. My son has added a couple of items as he has gotten older. My blessings with your family as I understand the work that goes into becoming the person you need to be for your asperger child.

Anonymous said...

this is one thing i am grateful i havnt had to experience he has his fathers metabolism so he is hungry every two hours and we are on a budget so he eats whatever is available good luck
6 hours ago · Like

Evrard Beaujolie said...

Interesting post about Picky eaters.

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