I am happy to present this guest post by Jenny Wise about nutrition tips for children with special needs. Jenny is a mother and blogger who educates her four children at home. Jenny has a child with special needs and shares tips for homeschooling and special needs on her website, Special Home Educator. To contact Jenny, email her here. If you have any concerns about your child’s nutrition or want to change your child’s diet, you should contact your pediatrician.
When it comes to making sure your special needs child is properly fed, there are a few factors to consider. First, of course, is the actual nutrition. A healthy brain requires healthy fuel and you need to make sure your child is getting their proper nutrition on a daily basis. Special needs children oftentimes have problems eating, as behavioral issues can make them forgetful, picky, and flat out unwilling to eat – either the proper food or any food at all. Here are some essential tips for ensuring your child’s nutritional needs are met.
Set family meal guidelines
If you’re having trouble getting your child to eat, you may feel like forcing the issue is the only way to go. While you don’t want to force your child to eat, you can set other guidelines concerning mealtimes that will help your child learn what is expected of them. “You cannot make your child eat (do not offer your child bribes to eat), but you can set expectations with regard to how long your child stays at the table with your family, when the next meal/snack will be offered and what foods are available to your child between these meals and snacks (e.g. a fruit). If your child is generally well nourished and healthy, missing a few meals to learn that you won’t cook special items in response to their refusal to eat is something their health can tolerate. Most children will learn to eat with the family and will grow well,” says MyChildWithoutLimits.org.
Setting a strict schedule for meals and snacks can help your special needs child develop a sense of normalcy surrounding eating.
Get creative to incorporate good nutrition
Children with special needs can be picky eaters, and even if you can get them to eat it’s sometimes hard to get them to eat the right foods. In order to pack as much nutrition as you can into every meal, it’s important to know how to “hide” healthy foods. First, you can check out some recipes that are deceptively healthy (and delicious). Next, you can try to truly “hide” things like leafy greens and fruits into easier-to-sell items like peanut butter smoothies. Of course, you don’t want to teach your special needs child to only like pizza, pasta, and cheesy things – but it helps to be able to pack in some extra nutrients when you can.
Meal plan for their time away from home
For many kids with special needs, change can be scary. This is especially true of food. When presented with unfamiliar food that differs from their regular meal plan, children can become agitated and eventually despondent.
To combat this, you have to stick to your child’s meal plan – even when they’re away from home. Take time on Sunday to cook and portion your child’s food for their week at daycare or school. Talk to your kid’s teachers and caretakers. Let them know about your son or daughter’s food requirements.
Know that supplements aren’t “cheating”
There’s absolutely no reason that you can’t make every bite your child takes count, and it’s not “cheating” to turn to nutrient powders and other supplements to help. Combine protein, vitamin, and mineral supplements to your child’s meals, and that way you can be sure they get the nutrition they need even if they are unable to finish the meal or have problems eating more later in the day.