Title

Beyond Picky Eating: The Occupational Impact of Autism on the Mealtime Experience of Mothers of Pre-Schoolers with an Autism Diagnosis and Feeding Difficulties

Start Time

14-10-2009 7:00 PM

End Time

14-10-2009 9:00 PM

Abstract

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often exhibit differences in their eating and mealtime behaviors. Feeding children is a crucial aspect of mothering and as such, differences in this area can significantly impact a mother's experiences and perspectives. Surprisingly little has been written about the intersections of mothering, mealtime and ASD. In answer to this significant gap, this study used narratively focused interviews to examine the perspectives of five mothers of pre-school aged boys with autism and feeding difficulties. The interviews focused on their experiences around mealtime and mothering a child with difficulty with eating. Data was analyzed using narrative methodology from an occupational science perspective. This paper focuses on findings showing that eating difficulties impact much more than just nutritional status for these children. The entire occupational life of the families is affected. In particular, this paper explores the significant adaptations that these mothers made to their daily routines to assure that their children were adequately nourished. The mothers in this study went to great lengths to adapt their daily occupations to their children's eating limitations. While the meeting of nutritional needs is one important function of eating, it is not the only one that is important to mothers. The data analyzed in this paper also reveals that these mothers were concerned about the disruptions to family mealtime and the ability of their children to participate in typical food related occupations of childhood. Mothering is an area that has presented particular interest to occupational scientists and feeding is a key aspect of mothering. As Yerxa noted in 2004, occupational science as a field has focused on the “need for understanding the incomprehensible complexity of actually being a mother under differing demands and levels of complexity” and this study highlights how the levels of demand and complexity involved in mothering a child with autism and feeding difficulties may look in day-to-day life.

References

Esdaile, S. A., Olson, J. A., & Eds (2004). Mothering Occupations: Challenge, Agency, and Participation. Philadelphia: F. A. Davis.

Herndon, A. C., DiGuiseppi, C., Johnson, S. L., Leiferman, J., & Reynolds, A. (2009). Does nutritional intake differ between children with autism spectrum disorders and children with typical development? Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders, 39, 212-222. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-008-0606-2

Larson, E. A. (2000). The orchestration of occupation: The dance of mothers. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 54(3), 269-280. DOI: 10.5014/ajot.54.3.269

Lawlor, M. C., & Mattingly, C. (2009). Understanding Family Perspectives on Illness and Disability Experience. In E. B. Crepeau, E. S. Cohn & B. A. B. Schell (Eds.), Willard and Spackman's Occupational Therapy (pp. 33-44). New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Riessman, C. K. (1993). Narrative Analysis. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.

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Beyond Picky Eating: The Occupational Impact of Autism on the Mealtime Experience of Mothers of Pre-Schoolers with an Autism Diagnosis and Feeding Difficulties

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often exhibit differences in their eating and mealtime behaviors. Feeding children is a crucial aspect of mothering and as such, differences in this area can significantly impact a mother's experiences and perspectives. Surprisingly little has been written about the intersections of mothering, mealtime and ASD. In answer to this significant gap, this study used narratively focused interviews to examine the perspectives of five mothers of pre-school aged boys with autism and feeding difficulties. The interviews focused on their experiences around mealtime and mothering a child with difficulty with eating. Data was analyzed using narrative methodology from an occupational science perspective. This paper focuses on findings showing that eating difficulties impact much more than just nutritional status for these children. The entire occupational life of the families is affected. In particular, this paper explores the significant adaptations that these mothers made to their daily routines to assure that their children were adequately nourished. The mothers in this study went to great lengths to adapt their daily occupations to their children's eating limitations. While the meeting of nutritional needs is one important function of eating, it is not the only one that is important to mothers. The data analyzed in this paper also reveals that these mothers were concerned about the disruptions to family mealtime and the ability of their children to participate in typical food related occupations of childhood. Mothering is an area that has presented particular interest to occupational scientists and feeding is a key aspect of mothering. As Yerxa noted in 2004, occupational science as a field has focused on the “need for understanding the incomprehensible complexity of actually being a mother under differing demands and levels of complexity” and this study highlights how the levels of demand and complexity involved in mothering a child with autism and feeding difficulties may look in day-to-day life.