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Feeding Tips for Children with ASD

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can have difficult feeding and mealtime behaviors. Common behaviors for children with ASD include eating very few foods, refusing to eat, having tantrums at mealtimes, and gagging or vomiting. Problems with feeding can affect a child’s nutrition and development, as well as increase parents’ stress. However, medical treatment, feeding therapy, and mealtime tips for parents can help with feeding problems and mealtime behaviors. 

Before starting feeding therapy with an occupational or speech therapist, the child should see a doctor to rule out medical problems that can affect eating, like reflux, constipation, or allergies. Then, in feeding therapy, the therapist will use behavioral strategies, like giving a toy to the child after he/she eats the target food, or sensory strategies, like having the child touch or smell a food before eating it. Some therapists use a combination of these strategies, depending on the needs of the child!

Mealtime tips for parents include:

  1. Have scheduled meals.

  2. Limit meals to 30 minutes or less. 

  3. Do not force your child to eat, but praise your child for appropriate mealtime behaviors.

  4. Have a food your child likes at each meal.

  5. Sit at the table with your child and make mealtime fun!


Brackett, K. (2019). Feeding Intervention [PDF Document]. Presented in

Pediatric Dysphagia Course at UNC-Chapel Hill 

Brown, K. (2017). The Assessment and Treatment of Feeding Disorders for

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Reinoso, G., Carsone, B., Weldon, S., Powers, J., & Bellare, N. (2018). Food

selectivity and sensitivity in children with autism spectrum disorder: A

systematic review defining the issue and evaluating interventions:

JNZAOT. New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65(1), 36-42.

Thullen, M., & Bonsall, A. (2017). Co-Parenting Quality, Parenting Stress,

and Feeding Challenges in Families with a Child Diagnosed with Autism

Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(3),


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