Dietary Tips for Children with Special Needs

Dietary Tips for Children with Special Needs

It is important for all children to have a nutritious, balanced diet to support their good health and development.

For children who have special needs, including those on the Autism Spectrum, ensuring they consume a healthy diet can be more challenging for parents. 

Studies have shown that 70% of autistic children have issues with food or eating.
They may be highly selective about what they will eat because they are sensitive to the textures, look, and smell of foods and this can create food aversions.

While autism can provide challenges, we find the goal of most parents is to find foods that the child will eat which will also supply them with the nutrition they need because a limited diet can place a child at risk of nutritional deficiencies.

Dietary Tips for Children Cognitive and Behavioral Issues

Research has shown the consumption of sugar, additives, pesticides, genetically modified organisms, inorganic processed foods, and hard to digest starches may aggravate symptoms in children with cognitive and behavioral issues.

It’s suggested that children with these issues should not consume: 

  • Sugar, and products or foods containing refined sugar
  • Cow milk or foods containing cow milk
  • Foods containing gluten
  • Highly processed foods
  • Foods containing additives and preservatives
  • Foods that are genetically modified (GMO)
  • Hard to digest starches, such as oats, rice, barley, beans, and legumes.

Many autistic children can really benefit from sugar-free and gluten-free diets. Sugar can create nutritional deficiencies and gluten can create inflammation. There is evidence that taking these things out of their diet helps them function better.

Many autistic children are very active so eliminating sugar may help calm them.  This can also be helpful for sleep issues.  

Probiotics are necessary for good digestion so that a child’s body best utilizes the food that is eaten. Probiotics can also help with constipation which is common among autistic children.

Work on what the child will eat and make sure it contains as many vitamins and minerals as possible.  If there are aversions to things like taste and texture, try to find foods like those the child likes. For example, if they like the texture of chicken nuggets, there are similar products made from cauliflower, broccoli, or other vegetables they might eat.

Testing and Supplementation

Having a child tested for allergies and nutritional deficiencies can be helpful. Supplementation can also be helpful to make up for a lack of nutrition in the child’s diet.

There are nutritionists who offer testing services, and who will also advise on supplementation to ensure the child is receiving the complete nutrition he or she needs.

References:  Gluten and Autism  The sweet danger of added sugars The Human Gut Microbiome as a Potential Factor in Autism Behavioral Benefits of Camel Milk in Subjects with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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