Don’t Tell Me He’ll Eat When He’s Hungry

At the age of 3, Sonny weighed a total of one and a half stone. Yes. You read that right. To compare, his healthy baby brother only 1 year old, already weighed a stone. This picture below hurts my eyes and my heart. He was nothing but skin on bone and you could see his skeleton through his pale skin. His face bony, his eyes sunken and gaunt. When he was sat down you could make out every outline that formed his pelvis and his spine. His age 18 to 24 month clothes hung from his body, never fitting him right. I felt consumed with guilt each time I saw his fragile body without clothes as though it was somehow my fault.

Sonny had terrible eating habit’s that seemed out of our control. People would often tell me to just be firm with him!

‘He’ll eat if he’s hungry.’

At this point, I had no idea that Sonny was to be awaiting diagnosis for Autism a mere year later. I knew in my heart something wasn’t quite right. He wasn’t developing at a normal rate compared to other children his age and when his baby brother began speaking and eating a wide range of meals before him, alarm bells did ring.

As a baby Sonny would choke and vomit any time a food beyond a smooth puree met his tongue. We progressed well with baby led weaning but it was clear from the start, Sonny favoured plain dry food.

We used to call him the cookie monster because all he would want eat was a diet of crackers, toast and biscuits. He would demolish a bland dinner of plain pasta but wouldn’t touch it if it had sauce mixed with it. Mixed textured foods such as casseroles were completely out of the question.

He improved as he got older and we were able to feed him mush as I call it. Dinners like Fish Pie, cottage pie and cheesy pasta were guaranteed winners. He would demolish a bowl of ready break or yoghurt for breakfast but refused to eat cereal.

Even now at nearly 5, he prefers to have pancakes for breakfast if his favourite cereal is all gone. He won’t eat foods that have touched any sauce on his plate. He will eat icecream plain, no sprinkles. No chocolate flake… You get the idea.

Tonight I made a delicious rustic roast chicken dinner with broccoli, carrots and sprouts. Served with mini roast potatoes and my home made yorkshire puddings. He ate 3 carrots and a yorkshire pudding. That’s good going!

We went to Frankie and Benny’s at the weekend to celebrate Riley’s 7th birthday which is something we often avoid. Before arriving, I contacted the restaurant and explained Sonny has Autism and that if possible we would like to book a table close to the exit and away from the majority of the noise. They don’t normally book tables on a Saturday for a party less of than 8, and although they said they couldn’t guarantee anything they would do their very best.

We arrived to find our table had been saved. Right next to the exit with windows and plenty of space. We went armed with ear defenders and phones to distract Sonny while we waited. We all chose what we wanted to eat and Sonny decided all he wanted to eat was his chips. I paid a fiver for chips!!

It’s quite common for children with Autism to have aversions to particular foods and find certain smells and textures pretty offensive. It is also very common for children with Autism to prefer beige, plain and dry foods.

This is so typical of Sonny.

When people tell you they’ll eat if they’re hungry. They just don’t understand what it’s like. They don’t understand what it’s like to see your child go hungry for days on end. They don’t understand what an achievement it is when our children eat something new for the first time.

They don’t understand why, simply having a healthy and happy child is sometimes good enough.

Spectrum Sunday

About the Author

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Mum of three young boys. Sharing our family journey to an Autism and ADHD diagnosis.





Oh God, yes, I understand! Have paid several fivers for plates of ‘just’ chips that were never quite right and subsequently didn’t get eaten (back in the days when we could still manage to go out to eat, a very rare occurrence now!). Our girl has probably had the same diet for 3 or 4 years now. Food and diet is something many parents feel guilt over, and not all parents are able to be in control of it. Those who don’t have the same problem don’t tend to understand, I find :/ We just have to ignore them! 🙂

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Oh yes! For years our son had a diet of soft fruits and only only ate things like blueberries, strawberries, grapes and raspberries. Sounds healthy but he had nothing with calories.

At aged 8 my son weighed just 18kg and was a bag of bones. He didn’t cope with anything on him so we knew he wouldn’t accept a feeding tube. Even his paediatrician agreed that he would be likely to harm himself if they tried a feeding tube.

Thankfully, at 10 he has improved massively and is now healthier than ever. Meals are still hard work but I hope it offers you some hope. #spectrumsunday

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I took they’ll eat when they are hungry from so many people that my 2nd eldest autistic child was found to be borderline malnourished. My mum thought I just had to force my youngest until the child threw up everything she ate when one piece of the wrong food was put in her mouth. I spent half my adult life telling myself I’m an adult I can eat sensible food and then throwing up for hours. Food sensitivities are very real and we autistics can’t always feel hunger or thirst. Make them eat something, anything that they can & load up the vitamins. Old fashioned invalid food can be useful, fruit smoothies can be enriched with eggs. Freshness and cooking can effect us a lot, white sauce can cover a lot of veggies, I can’t drink bottled water but I can drink rainwater. Feeding an autistic person with food sensitivities is incredibly hard, you are doing a wonderful job.

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I am absolutely sick of people telling me my daughter will eat if she’s hungry. I can serve up a plate of all her favourites and if she doesn’t want it, she isn’t going to eat it. No matter how hard I try and bribe her! #postsfromtheheart

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Gosh , that must be hard. Harry is a very fussy eater but i can hide vegetables in his pasta & he thinks sweetcorn is giant food.There is no answer sometimes other than just keep trying ( and hoping ) Thanks for linking up to #Postsfromtheheart

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Sending much love from a mummy who has been there. For a long time Number One ate plain pasta (no sauce), cheese and tomato pizza (no herbs) and fruit – nothing else. Suddenly at age seven she decided she wanted to eat more. It was really hard going, and she was sick a lot – as much as she wanted to do it her aversions were still there. But within six months she ate virtually everything. Not because we told her to, simply because for her it was time. It will get easier I promise I’m so many ways. Thank you so much for sharing such a valuable post to #PostsFromTheHeart

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