Nutrition Community

What Do You Mean By Diet Change?

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
06/09/20  3:39 PM PST

To a parent of a child with autism, the news of a needed diet change may sound like a daunting task. Learn how this mom dealt with such unexpected news.

My caller ID showed a number from the healthcare system we use for my son, so I swiped to answer. We had just done a full day of tests and appointments, so I wasn’t surprised to get callbacks, but I was taken aback by the information. The nephrology nurse introduced herself and launched into details about test results and before I knew it a major diet change was on the table for my son.

Stunned, I looked at the phone for a few minutes after ending the call. I had no idea where to begin. After blanking out for a few minutes, I called right back to the nurse’s line and asked if there was a dietitian who could help. My instinct to care for my son was screaming to act immediately and with gusto. With years of experience in shutting down panic, I switched gears and got deliberate instead.

Increasing Water Intake

The first instruction was to increase water intake, and that was low hanging fruit, so to speak. Action soothes the panic, so I measured the volume of his reusable water bottles and set up a chart on the whiteboard on our fridge to track daily water intake. 

Autism & Food Preferences

Our son has autism and as with many autistic people, he has narrow food interests. This proved to be both a challenge and a blessing. It means we could start with his favorite foods which he eats on a daily basis, and make a lot of progress with a few changes, but it also means there’s a higher degree of risk if he cannot tolerate the changes. This is where the dietitian was a lifesaver. She had recipes on hand for his favorite foods, and a few important guidelines to go by. Once those recipes arrived, I shopped for ingredients and got to it.

In the meantime, I contacted his school. Ben eats hot lunch and very much enjoys that part of his day. I was prepared to send in food but didn’t want to force more change on him than necessary, so I was relieved to hear from the dietary department team leader that they would be happy to accommodate his dietary changes. She was able to make direct contact with the same dietitian I did and got clear directions for adapting his school meals.

Diet Research

Once we got the initial steps out of the way I took steps like finding social media groups and apps for his diet. These steps serve as a nice compliment to our efforts but are no substitute for medical guidance. 

We’re still learning and will be for some time. It’s both harder and easier than I thought in different ways, but it is doable. I’m glad I paused to prepare for the marathon rather than darting off willy-nilly without direction. A deep breath and good instruction gave us the right start and a good direction for the duration. 

inclusion on the playground

Alethea Mshar is a Special Needs Mom and Blogger.

Read her blog, Ben’s Writing, Running Mom

Follow her on Facebook


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