Evidence suggests that caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and associated feeding difficulties have specific mealtime challenges in the home environment because of the limited interventions that are appropriate and responsive to the needs of the child as well as the family.
To describe: (1) common feeding difficulties in children with ASD, (2) mealtime challenges for the caregiver and (3) mealtime strategies used by the caregiver.
Forty caregivers were purposively sampled to participate in the study. Participants were recruited through ASD-specific schools in Johannesburg, South Africa. Participants completed an online questionnaire focusing on their mealtime experiences with their child with ASD.
Findings from the data after thematic analysis indicated the multitude of challenges caregivers have when feeding their child with ASD as well as their individualised way of dealing with these difficulties.
The findings emphasised the importance of incorporating the family’s beliefs, values and needs into feeding management and highlight the importance of a holistic approach to intervention. The study also provided information about mealtime strategies that are being used in the home environment to support the child as well as the caregiver. This information can be used to inform management to improve therapeutic outcomes and feeding challenges in the home environment.