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Addressing a restricted diet

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    Those with autism may have a restricted diet due to an over-responsiveness or under-responsiveness to food. This can lead to them feeling overwhelmed, stressed or upset.

    A restricted diet can be changed

    A restricted diet has very real roots, often in hypersensitivity and subsequent genuine fear of foods that are different. A person often can genuinely taste the difference between different brands and cannot accept new foods. However there is a way to change this, but only with the person on board and as part of the decision. They will need a reason to change. The following principles will help:

    These following principles will help:

    1. Make the change meaningful by giving some reward for complying and being part of agreeing to start the changes.
    2. Make the change very small – perhaps a different make of drink or crisp but of the same flavour. Be open and honest about the change, don’t be tempted to hide the new food or put it in different packaging as this could actually lead to rejection of the original, ‘accepted’ food.
    3. Make the changes tiny and staged, perhaps ½ tsp of the new juice followed by a glass of his usual juice.
    4. Stick at this level until the ½ tsp is accepted then increase to 1 tsp and slowly build up until he will accept a glass of the new juice. It may take a few days or a few weeks.
    5. Once accepted alternate the new and old juice on different days to keep the variety open.
    6. Look for tiny glimpses that they may have a reason to want to change e.g. wanting to be able to eat something when you go a restaurant and work toward including one food he could try.
    7. Steps are tiny but all family to be rewarded for achieving each one.
    8. Generally work through accepting looking at new foods, smelling them, touching them and eventually tasting them.
    9. It may be important to encourage acceptance of a mineral and vitamin supplement, this might be by accepting just one drop in a small cup of juice and slowly building up.

    Discouraging a restrictive diet can be a timely process, but it requires both motivation from those who experience it and support from those around them.

    If you are worried about a restricted diet, please arrange an appointment and we will endeavour to help.

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