Abstract

OBJECTIVE. We identified and described the strategies parents use to support the mealtime participation of their child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

METHOD. Twelve families with children with ASD (ages 2–7 yr) participated in videotaped mealtime observations. Qualitative content analysis was used to identify strategies families used to facilitate participation.

RESULTS. Six categories were identified: (1) parent intervening and ignoring, (2) meal preparation and adaptability, (3) play and imagination, (4) distractions, (5) positive reinforcements, and (6) modeling. Props—common child objects that support the child’s mealtime participation—were used in the context of multiple strategies. In addition, increased parental vigilance emerged as an important component of all family mealtimes.

CONCLUSION. Families used multiple strategies within and across mealtimes, highlighting the individualistic nature of feeding challenges. Understanding parent mealtime strategies allows for further investigation into the efficacy and development of intervention strategies to promote mealtime participation of children with ASD.

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