A big challenge many parents face is a child who dislikes eating healthy, nutritious foods.
After weeks or months of struggling, bribing, or giving in, it’s not uncommon for parents to become alarmed if their child refuses to eat healthy foods. For many children mealtimes are incredibly stressful as parents struggle to get them to eat enough nutritious food.
Seeing these challenges first hand, occupational therapist April Lambert and I offered our first Eating Healthy is Fun! Group Program in 2006 as a pilot program for pre-schoolers with autism who had eating challenges.
We were a little brazen as best practices were scarce for eating challenges in those days so we based the group treatment strategies on what we knew best: our own experience in 1:1 practice. We agreed on a six-week program with a group of six children who were all on the autism spectrum, meeting once a week for an hour with us two therapists as leads.
We set weekly goals that would gradually increase the abilities of the children as we exposed them to foods that we knew they had aversions to. To this day, April and I still reminisce about the progress the children achieved in that first week. The children mastered all the goals we had set out for the six sessions on the first day!
It was phenomenal to see the children overcome their reluctance to not only taste, but to enjoy eating healthy, nutritious foods.
What we hadn’t gleaned from our 1:1 experience helping children with food challenges was that children model (gladly!) after each other. We forgot about the power of peers. A food one child didn’t like, well that was another one’s favorite! And they showed each other. Most importantly the children had an absolute blast with the food.
Their favorite activity, again nothing we ever would have predicted, was “magic potion” at the end of the group. Essentially, all the leftover scraps of food got scraped off plates at the as part of clean up into a big bowl that everyone stirred. It looked and smelled awful. But for these children with super sensitivities, who would often gag at the mere sight of some foods, we made food fun again and they loved it. So did their parents. So did we!
We are offering an Eating Healthy is Fun! Summer Group Program in Saint John, New Brunswick July 8 – September 2 (8 weeks with a one week break on August). Find out more on our Group Programs page or complete the registration form to attend. Space is limited.
-OT Christel Seeberger