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The Case of the Cafeteria Plate

I recently treated an 8-year old severely autistic child who would only “eat” specific food from a specific plate, a sectioned cafeteria-styled one, every single day.

I put the word “eat” in quotations because his eating pattern would better be described as inhaling or shoving the food into his mouth with his hands, in a very systematic pattern. All food, sweet, salty, sour and spicy were mashed together, not allowing him the pleasure of enjoying different tastes and different textures. His mom was hesitant to make any adjustments since any change in routine could lead to tantrums and lack of eating.

Together with his mom, we set goals:

  • Engage in more socially appropriate eating habits.
  • Introduce him to some new food groups and plate designs.
  • Decrease tantrums.
  • Slow down his eating pace to allow his brain to process and enjoy the food.

Along with a very talented behavior therapist, we implemented a program that yielded tremendous success. In less than two months, our client was using a regular plate, trying adaptive utensils, experimenting with new flavors and discovering the joy of sour and bitter flavors. For the first time, he is enjoying his food and eating is no longer a rigid and frustrating process but a successful milestone that we monitor through bi-monthly sessions.

He truly “stepped up to the plate.”

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