Helping Children with Autism Overcome Picky Eating Habits: 3 Tips for Parents

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Helping Children with Autism Overcome Picky Eating Habits: 3 Tips for Parents

Picky eating habits are a common challenge for many children, but for children with autism, these habits can be particularly challenging to address. The sensory sensitivities and rigidity often associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can make trying new foods a daunting experience. However, with patience, understanding, and the right strategies, parents can help their children with autism expand their palates and develop healthier eating habits. In this blog post, we will discuss three valuable tips for parents, along with the role of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in assisting children with autism in trying new foods. We are pleased to highlight Yellow Bus ABA, a leading clinic-based ABA provider in New York, known for its commitment to providing access to care in underserved populations and offering ABA therapy in Yonkers, New York.

Understanding Picky Eating in Children with Autism

Picky eating in children with autism often stems from sensory sensitivities, routines, and a limited range of preferred foods. These preferences may be linked to the texture, taste, or even the color of the food. It’s crucial for parents to approach this issue with empathy and patience, understanding that their child’s food aversions are not mere stubbornness but may be related to sensory processing challenges.

Tip 1: Gradual Exposure to New Foods

One effective strategy for expanding your child’s food choices is gradual exposure. Start by introducing small amounts of new foods alongside their favorite foods during meals. This approach allows your child to become familiar with the new food without feeling overwhelmed. Over time, you can gradually increase the portion size of the new food as your child becomes more comfortable with it.

ABA Tip: ABA therapy can be particularly helpful in implementing this strategy. ABA therapists can design structured mealtime routines that incorporate systematic exposure to new foods while providing positive reinforcement for trying them. This helps children with autism develop a more diverse palate in a supportive and controlled environment.

Tip 2: Create a Positive Mealtime Environment

The atmosphere during mealtime plays a significant role in a child’s willingness to try new foods. Make mealtimes pleasant, stress-free, and predictable. Avoid pressuring your child to eat a certain food or finish their plate, as this can create anxiety around food.

ABA Tip: ABA techniques, such as shaping and reinforcement, can be applied to create a positive mealtime environment. ABA therapists can work with your child to reduce mealtime anxiety and establish routines that make trying new foods a more enjoyable experience.

Tip 3: Use Visual Supports and Social Stories

Visual supports and social stories are excellent tools for helping children with autism understand and prepare for new experiences. Create a visual schedule or social story that explains the process of trying new foods. Include pictures, descriptions, and steps to make it easier for your child to understand what to expect.


ABA therapists can create customized visual supports and social stories tailored to your child’s specific needs. These tools can be integrated into ABA sessions to prepare your child for new food choices and make the transition smoother.

Yellow Bus ABA: Helping Picky Eaters

Picky eating habits in children with autism can be challenging, but with the right strategies and support, progress is possible. Gradual exposure to new foods, creating a positive mealtime environment, and using visual supports and social stories are valuable techniques that parents can employ. Additionally, ABA therapy can be a powerful ally in helping children with autism develop healthier eating habits and overcome food aversions.

Yellow Bus ABA is a leading clinic-based ABA provider in New York, dedicated to increasing access to care in underserved populations. They offer ABA therapy in Yonkers, New York, and provide comprehensive support to children with autism and their families. If you’re seeking professional guidance to address your child’s picky eating habits or other challenges related to autism, Yellow Bus ABA is here to assist you on your journey towards positive change and growth.

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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.