Feeding Corner: Autism and the School Cafeteria: Four Tips to Help Kids Eat
[Source: The ASHA Leader Blog]
by Melanie Potock, CCC-SLP
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all students get at least 20 minutes to eat lunch, but many public elementary schools give kids just 20 minutes to enter, eat and exit the chaos of the cafeteria. Students often receive less time to get a nutritious meal in their bellies than state governments provide for adult hourly wage-earners. For example, in Colorado, the law requires employers to provide an uninterrupted 30-minute lunch period.
Not so for many kids, including those with sensory challenges and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For children with ASD, sensory overload in the lunchroom may impair their ability to focus on eating a nutritious lunch. New smells, lights, and movement bombard their senses, in addition to unpredictable noises from the kitchen, lunch trays, cash registers and more. If the child is receiving feeding treatment, he may be in the early stages of becoming an adventurous eater and may find eating in new stimulating environments especially challenging. He might need more support than some kids to deal with the sensory assault.