Food Exploration (Thanksgiving): Good Food Choices in Children with Autism

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Food Exploration (Thanksgiving): Good Food Choices in Children with Autism

Introduction: Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather, express gratitude, and share delicious meals together. However, for parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), holiday gatherings can sometimes present unique challenges when it comes to food choices. At Yellow Bus ABA, the leading provider of ABA services in NY, we understand the importance of helping children with ASD be open to trying different foods. In this Thanksgiving-themed blog, we’ll explore the significance of fostering a positive relationship between children with autism and a wide variety of foods.

The Challenge of Selective Eating and Good Food Choices

Many children with autism exhibit selective eating habits, which can be attributed to sensory sensitivities and rigid routines. This often leads to a limited diet consisting of only a few preferred foods. While it’s essential to respect individual preferences and dietary restrictions, introducing a diverse range of foods can be beneficial for both physical and social development.

  1. Sensory Exploration: Children with ASD may have heightened sensory sensitivities, which can affect their willingness to try new foods. Thanksgiving provides an ideal opportunity to engage in sensory exploration through different textures, colors, and flavors. Encourage your child to touch, smell, and observe various ingredients and dishes as part of the cooking process.
  2. Gradual Exposure: The key to expanding your child’s palate is gradual exposure. Start by introducing one new food item at a time. For Thanksgiving, consider incorporating a new dish alongside familiar favorites. This gradual approach reduces anxiety and increases the likelihood of acceptance.
  3. Visual Supports: Visual supports, such as visual schedules and social stories, can help children with autism understand and prepare for mealtime expectations during Thanksgiving gatherings. These tools can reduce anxiety and promote a sense of predictability.
  4. Modeling Behavior: Children often learn by observing others. Model positive eating behaviors and an open attitude towards trying new foods. Let your child see you enjoying a variety of dishes and express your own excitement about the meal.
  5. Celebrating Small Victories: Celebrate every small step your child takes toward trying new foods. Acknowledge their efforts, even if they only touch a new food or take a tiny taste. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in encouraging further exploration.
  6. Creating a Safe Environment: Thanksgiving gatherings can be overwhelming for children with ASD due to sensory sensitivities and social demands. Create a quiet space where your child can retreat if they need a break, and communicate with family members and guests about your child’s unique needs.

Conclusion: Thanksgiving is not just a time for indulgence and tradition; it’s also an opportunity for growth and exploration for children with autism. By fostering openness to trying different foods, you’re not only enriching their culinary experiences but also supporting their social development and overall well-being.

At Yellow Bus ABA, we understand the importance of individualized care for children with autism. Our specialized ABA services in the greater NYC area are designed to help children reach their full potential, including in areas like food acceptance and sensory exploration. This Thanksgiving, let’s make it a time of celebration, gratitude, and delicious discoveries for children with autism and their families.


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Rhonda Stewart

Clinical Director

Rhonda Stewart, BCBA, NYS LBA, earned her Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism from the Sage Colleges. Rhonda has dedicated her career to working with individuals diagnosed with Autism since 2008. Rhonda has a wide range of experience working with individuals from ages 3 to adulthood in various settings including early intervention, schools, residential programs, group homes, day habilitation programs, center programs, and in-home services. Rhonda began working with families through insurances services in 2014. Rhonda is currently the Clinical Director at Yellow Bus ABA and works closely with the Executive Clinical Director, Estelle Parnes, to ensure services provided to our families are effective, families feel supported, and families have a positive experience with ABA services at Yellow Bus ABA.