Thank you, Lynne, AwesomismMom for this honor and the opportunity to be a guest blogger/writer for your wonderful site. Our community of people are important family and I am happy to be able to share my experiences both as a Personal Chef and mother of an autistic child.
Chef Lynn < The Personable Chef, talks about Dinner time and feeding our autistic kids/adults
Creating dinner each night takes planning and thought. Each person has their own likes and dislikes for sure. When you add an autistic/adhd child/adult into the mix you may be finding yourself becoming the short order cook you never wanted to be.
My younger daughter is almost 8 and was diagnosed with autism at age 2.( I don’t usually use the term higher functioning but that shares her story a bit)
From the beginning there were sensory eating concerns. As much as I could, I gave her various textures/colors and types of food so that she wouldn’t limit the already limited diet anymore.
At this young age she preferred smooth and sweet things. yogurt, sometimes hummus, juicer fruits those kinds of things. Getting enough protein was always the challenge. As she ages what her food looks like and smells like are very important to her.
“Its yucky or I hate it” is the famous phrase here even when she hasn’t tried something, (we hear this daily.)
Beyond my family…….
One of the biggest obstacles I have found over the years is the parent(s) (me included)
Many parents can be picky eaters and so what they don’t like they pass that off, the child(ren) decide that they won’t like it either.
And believe me when I say, even our body language about food teaches our kids how we feel about what we see and might be eating or not eating.
Typically, the biggest food obstacle is the food rut…. “My child(ren) young/adult won’t eat that, “
Did you ever try? Did you ever try again?
Eating the same thing each week too can become such a rut with the food becoming tired.
Our taste buds are ever changing and reintroducing something may take some time but is usually worth the pay off.
We’re all guilty (me included) of staying with what we know works. It’s just easier and there are no challenges/meltdowns if we stay safe.
In order to expand their eating needs and foods we must stay diligent and teach them about what’s healthy eating and how to over come the challenges they may face. All that we do for our autistic kids (therapies/ schooling, feeding, etc.) is a process. Life skills are of course helpful for life and very necessary.
What I know to be true, I’ve encouraged through many questions……
Having taught and cooked for autistic kids and their families I am asked frequently what can I do? Need help for getting them to eat something new.
My experience has been that all autistic kids, verbal, nonverbal with various functional limitations or otherwise will somehow communicate with us about food. We just need to watch/listen and deduce their wants/needs.
We know our kids of course…. Sometimes you need to go the extra mile and encourage otherwise. A healthier diet is but a trial and error situation away.
Here has been some of my suggestions
For the older more independent eater I usually suggest this (of course works with younger too) . If you eat “family style” put something you know they will like and chose on the table, this way they’ll have a success with choosing something when you want them to try something new. Praise them with what they chose and do encourage the new food. (example put the chicken nuggets you know they’ll eat if you’re going to introduce cooked carrots.) Do encourage a taste but don’t push if there’s hard push back. (keep re-introducing over a number of days)
When introducing a new vegetable offer it with no flavor added first (especially cooked) this way they get the flavor and texture without the added butter/seasoning or dip) Always add those later
Our OT told us in the beginning that at first, they may just have to see the new food. From there touch it, lick and then taste. Do these steps slowly and without much fuss from you. Remember sensory kids are often easily put off. The goal here is to get them to try something new. Take your time, remain calm and be as noncritical about their choices as you can, you never want food to be a battle.
If your child/adult comes grocery shopping with you experience the store if you can. Let them touch and smell the foods. Talk about what’s there. If they show interest perhaps purchase the food in hopes they will try. (Helping to plan the weeks menu and grocery list is also a way to add some excitement and skills as you talk about what will be created each night. This allows for some food confidence building should they be interested. )
Farmers markets are a great way to taste various foods. If your child/adult can stand crowds and all that entails a visit can be a great way for them to be outdoors and experience what is local in food.
Bringing our kids in some capacity into the kitchen, if they are receptive is also a great way for them to touch the food, perhaps wash and tear it up. To cut and taste it. Teaching the life skills again and giving them self esteem goes a long way for sure.
The above page will give age appropriate kitchen tasks should you go this route and need some insight.
I will admit that right now we are pushing her to try more and strongly encouraging her to eat. Broccoli and cauliflower have been the vegetables. Now she will also eat a meatball.
Dinner here is a great conversation sit down time , where we share about our day and talk food. When you’re a chef there is ALAWYS talk about food.
Enjoy your food, encourage new things through time and there will be success I promise.
“I love what I do and its reflected in the delicious food I create” Chef Lynn
A few recipes ….
once you’ve introduced cauliflower in the raw state this is a great way to eat them, like mashed potatoes but yummier
Microwave safe bowl, sharp knife, cutting board, colander, potato masher, towel or paper towel
Head of cauliflower washed, and florets cut off stem
Either steam, microwave or boil on top of stove
Butter or butter substitute 2tbsp (more is you desire)
2tbsps cream cheese
¼ cup shredded cheese of choice (mozzarella usually good for our kids as it has a milder flavor)
Salt to taste, pepper if you’d like
¼ cup Grated Parmesan cheese is delicious too but can be a much more pungent flavor, some kids like where others not so much. If you do use parmesan you won’t need the salt.
Putting it together…..
I like to micro-wave them
In microwave safe bowl add the flowerets with a tbsp or two of water, cover bowl with paper towel. Microwave on high in increments. Start with 3 minutes. You want the cauliflower to be really soft. May take up to 6 to 8 minutes (depends on your microwave and yes climate) (add more water if dry as you check)
Careful taking bowl out of microwave will be very hot…
Now you need a potato masher (older child/adult could do this)
While still hot to melt the cheese add the butter (butter substitute) and cheeses, mash until desired consistency.
Enjoy this delicious side dish
PS if there are leftovers can add an egg and mix-up, form into patties and in a pan sauté them on medium high heat turning once for about 8 to 10 minutes roughly. Another way to use the leftovers.
Breakfast for dinner
Everyone loves pancakes….
Bowl, wooden spoon, spatula, fork, measuring cups, frying pan or griddle, spoons , small bowl to melt butter
1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
2 tablespoons sugar (when I use apple sauce or banana I don’t use)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk (I use unsweetened almond)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter(melted)
1 large egg
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
Dash of cinnamon ( I use ¼ tsp or more as I like the flavor, could also use pumpkin spice)
Other variants … unsweetened apple sauce in place of egg,
2 tbsps. natural peanut or almond butter (good for protein)
mashed small banana
¼ cup oatmeal for texture
Mix all dry ingredients together in a big bowl, add the egg or unsweetened apple sauce or banana, milk and melted butter
If using cinnamon or other flavoring add now before mixing.
Stir until combined.
Heat pan to medium high (turn down once first side is on pan/griddle)
…For each pancake, spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter onto pan or skillet.
Cook until surface of pancakes has some bubbles approximately 1 to 2 minutes.
Flip carefully using spatula, and cook until browned on the underside,
1 to 2 minutes more.
Serve with your favorite topping