There was a brilliant article in yesterday's Observer about a school for children with autism, and how the arrival of a new chef has helped to revolutionise school meal times.
Jay Rayner writes:
"This is not merely another story of a school meals service revolutionised by the arrival of a trained chef, determined to prepare everything from scratch. It’s also about the vital therapeutic role good food can play in the lives of a community that needs it most. It is about the pleasures of the table that so many of us take for granted being extended to people for whom the commonplace is a struggle. And it’s about preparing vulnerable children for the realities of life beyond school."
The man behind the mealtime revolution is Djalma Lucio Polli de Carvalho from Brazil. As well as keeping ingredients separate on the plate for children who prefer that the foods they are eating don't touch, he also happily caters for unusual dietary requests - such as one from a boy who prefers his toast burned. Children can also request what they have to eat using pictures, which can reduce the anxiety involved in mealtime choices for children with autism.
The piece is well worth reading, and if you have a child with autism you might find some of the approach outlined interesting or helpful. Wouldn't it be fabulous if more schools had the means to take this kind of approach to meal times for children with autism?
The NHS website has this to say about eating and autism:
"Some people with autism have problems with food and diet. These dietary problems can cause both over- and under-eating. Causes of under-eating can include sensory differences, interrupted routine and the social aspects of eating. Reasons for overeating can include food becoming an obsession and low self-esteem, which can result in comfort eating."
The NHS recommends keeping a food diary as a helpful way of revealing any eating patterns, or possible reasons for over- or undereating. Additionally, the National Autistic Society also has these useful articles on dietary management for children and adults with ASDs on both over-eating and restricted diets.
NHS Choices also has tips for teaching good eating skills to children with special needs, which may be helpful to parents of some autistic children.
If you have strong opinions on this story or particular experience of the issues involved, we'd love to hear your comments over on our Facebook page.
And don't forget to check out this recent post on Autism-friendly cinema screenings for July