Caroline Pringle, Families and Professionals Advisor for Child Enquiries, shares some strategies for eating and mealtimes with your child in her 'Snippets of Advice' blog series.
I have had some calls/emails to the advice line about children’s eating habits and felt it might be useful to highlight a few issues and share strategies that have worked for families.
The following information is for guidance only, any parent who is unduly concerned about their child’s diet or eating should consult with a medical professional.
A varied diet is good for us all and children with Fragile X may eat bland or what is often called ‘beige food’ and their restricted diet is a concern for families. I know parents have been able to puree vegetables and add them to a meal without a child realising and thus providing essential nutrients. The NHS have an Eatwell guide that looks at food groups. Keeping a food diary can help; families I have worked with in the past have found it useful to write down what their child had eaten during the day and surprisingly, sometimes it was healthier than they thought. Also, a food diary is useful information to take to an appointment with a GP or dietician.
Think about the environment your child is eating in; is it too noisy, are there strong smells to distract your child? Often school canteens are sensory overload for them, and this will impact on their eating. It has helped some children to go into the canteen first before the other children ‘charge in’. Where they sit is important, I am aware that many children with sensory processing difficulties like to be in the corner of a room so that no one can walk around or behind them and they can face into the room to know what is going on.
Mealtimes with the family is a good activity as you can model behaviour by eating together rather than sitting with a tray watching TV. Allowing your child to be involved in choosing or even helping to prepare a meal can help as well as helping to lay the table. However, being realistic with a busy household I appreciate that this can’t always be a daily occurrence. You don’t want mealtimes to be a battle as this will cause more stress for your child and heighten their anxiety levels. Some families have found using a weighted lap pad makes their child feel more ‘grounded’ when sitting at the table but this needs to be used for mealtimes only so as not to reduce the effectiveness