picky eater

Feeding Therapy

Many children with autism are picky eaters, but “feeding problems” are a serious issue. A child may be extremely selective about what food he or she will eat, or refuse food altogether. The child may vomit or gag when food is presented. A variety of negative behaviors may have also developed around food and eating, such as major meltdowns whenever a parent is presenting the child with food. Feeding disorders typically involve extreme selectivity and sensory-related aversions to food tastes and/or textures. Sometimes they also involve difficulty with chewing and swallowing.

Feeding, eating and swallowing issues are often tricky and hard to categorize by both physicians and parents alike. A speech pathologist, an occupational therapist, or a developmental specialist can rule out a Feeding or Swallowing Disorder.

These are some general guidelines. Please consult with a professional.

A child that has a Feeding Disorder has difficulties with eating, sucking, chewing and swallowing different categories of food as well as different textures of food, resulting in the child’s refusal to eat and try new foods.

A child who has a Swallowing Disorder (Dysphagia) has difficulties with either moving and/or sensing their tongue, lips, jaw, or cheeks to swallow food, liquids, and pills accurately and safely from the mouth to the stomach while keeping their airway protected.

A child who is a Picky Eater, eats at least 30 foods but can be fussy about eating particular textures, food groups or trying new foods.

Children with autism can also have feeding issues that can be addressed by a BCBA. The aim is to reward and encourage positive behaviors, building up from small successes to bigger ones, while eliminating negative behaviors. For example, the first step is to get a child to tolerate having an empty spoon touched to their mouth. The child can learn new food patterns as they build on successes.

American Speech-Language Association (ASHA)
The national organization for speech pathologists.  Includes information on a variety of topics related to autism.

Local Providers

Autism Society Options Policy

This Resource Guide was developed to provide families and professionals with an opportunity to find resources related to autism in the Inland Empire in one place.

All information provided or published by the Autism Society Inland Empire is for information purposes only. Specific treatment, therapy or services should be provided to an individual only at the direction of the individual’s doctor, caregiver, or other qualified professional. References to any treatment or therapy option, program, service, or treatment provider are not an endorsement by the Autism Society. References of treatments, therapies, programs, services, and/or providers are not intended to be comprehensive statements. You should investigate alternatives that may be more appropriate for a specific individual. The Autism Society assumes no responsibility for the use made of any information published or provided. The Autism Society Inland Empire provides information, but it does not constitute medical or legal information. Referrals provided are suggestions to organizations that might help, but do not constitute a recommendation. The Autism Society Inland Empire cannot be held responsible for consequences that arise from individual dealings with a professional or organization. The inclusion of any organization does not imply endorsement, and omission does not imply disapproval. The Autism Society Inland Empire may add or remove organizations from this list at its discretion.