Autism and Food – Part 1 – issues that may arise.

Autistic people can face many difficulties when it comes to food, and eating. Whether this is due to sensory difficulties, or simply finding it almost impossible to try new types of food, many autistic people have experienced some food-related issue at some point in their life. This article, looking at what some of these issues might be, is the first of three related articles. Part 2 will look at some of the reasons why this may occur, and part 3 will offer some advice and strategies for dealing with some of the food-related problems.

Only eating certain things
This could mean only eating particular foods, or it could mean only eating a certain brand of food, and for some people, only eating a certain colour food. Obviously this can cause a lot of difficulties. Some people may only eat foods such as chips or pasta, and it is not healthy to have diet which only consists of food such as these. It also means that if these particular foods aren’t available the person often doesn’t eat. If they go on holiday and don’t have access to the particular brand of food that they eat, what are they to do? Even going to a friend`s house may prove difficult. And of course there is always the worry, depending on what the food or brand is, that it may no longer be in stock in the local shops. Also, it is simply not healthy for a person to have such a limited diet.

Having to eat at a certain time
Some autistic people become incredibly routined about the time of day that they like to eat. At times this can even reach the point where they don’t want to go out, and do things because they worry that they will not be able to have their lunch at the regular time. Routine is important for people with autism, but to be so routined over something that is generally so flexible can cause all sorts of problems. One of the most obvious being, what if the person just isn’t hungry at the time they think they should be having their lunch? Or what if they are hungry a couple of hours before they are due to have their dinner? Routine is important, but when it comes to something as important as food it can be problematic to be so restricted about when mealtimes should take place.

Not feeling able to eat away from home.
Some people find they can’t eat unless they are in their own home. Of course some of this is down to being anxious in public, but some autistic people don’t even feel able to eat at the homes of their friends and family. This can lead to problems, for example it can stop people with autism from going on holiday, or from spending too much time away from their home. This often means missing out on activities outside the home. If it is combined with the point above (having to eat meals at set times) then this really can become a problem.

The above points might not make a great deal of sense to non-autistic people. They might not even make sense to autistic people who have never experienced them. But like all autism-related issues, they do have appoint of origin, and a reason behind them. This will be explored and discussed in part 2 of this series. Struggling to eat a healthy and varied diet is not exclusive to autistic people, and it is not a given that people with autism will have issues around food. However, for those that do it can be a concern for the autistic person and their families.