Title

Mealtime Challenges and Children with Autism: Understanding the impact on family occupations

Start Time

21-10-2011 10:55 AM

End Time

21-10-2011 11:25 AM

Session Type

Event

Abstract

Background: Participation in family mealtimes is consistently linked with indicators of health and well being for children (Fiese & Schwartz, 2008). Children with autism often exhibit differences in their eating and mealtime behaviors (Ahearn, 2001; Bandini et al., 2010). Feeding children is an important part of mothering and these differences with eating and mealtime behaviors can significantly impact a mother's experiences and perspectives.

Methods: Narratively focused interviews were done with five mothers of four- and five-year-old boys diagnosed with autism and feeding difficulties. The interviews focused on their stories about mealtime and mothering a child who had difficulty eating. Data collection took place over a six-month period during which each mother participated in two to four interviews and each family was observed at least once during mealtime. Data analysis consisted of thematic analysis and narrative methodology based on the work of Mattingly and Lawlor (2000). The participants were selected with an emphasis on purposeful diversity. The trustworthiness of the data was ensured through the in-depth engagement with the families, including doing multiple interviews with each informant, and the keeping of a detailed research journal elaborating the reflective process involved in making analytic decisions. Validity of theoretical concepts was checked by returning to the transcripts and the informants as analysis was occurring and performing ongoing outside checking through the presentation of ideas emerging from the data to a group with expertise in mothering, autism, feeding and occupational science.

Results: Analysis of the interviews and observations revealed that the difficulties with eating that these children exhibited had a profound impact on day-to-day lives of these mothers, their children, and their other family members. Each of the mothers in this study spent a significant amount of time working to minimize the impact that their child's challenges related to mealtime and eating had on their family's occupations. This presentation describes how these mothers perceived the impact of mealtime challenges on family occupations and the way they shaped the daily activities of their family to reflect and balance each mother's priorities related to the occupations of their everyday lives.

Discussion Questions:

  1. One of the findings of this study was that stories related to mealtime and feeding children were deeply entwined with stories of other everyday activities. What are the methodological challenges of studying real people in their everyday lives and what are some possible solutions for dealing with these complexities?
  2. This study explored mothers' perceptions about mealtime and related occupations and how these influenced their choices related to food and feeding their children with autism spectrum disorders. Discuss how these findings might inform work related to the health implications of family participation in mealtimes around such issues as diabetes, eating disorders, and obesity.

References

Ahearn, W. H., Castine, T., Nault, K., & Green, G. (2001). An assessment of food acceptance in children with autism or pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31(5), 505-511. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1012221026124

Bandini, L., Anderson, S., Curtin, C., Cermak, S. A., Evans, E., Scampini, R., Maslin, M., & Must, A. (2010). Food selectivity in children with autism spectrum disorders and typically developing children. Journal of Pediatrics. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2010.02.013

Fiese B., Schwartz M. (2008). Reclaiming the family table: mealtimes and child health and wellbeing. Soc Policy Rep. 22(4):3-16.

Lawlor, M. C. (2004). Mothering work: Negotiating healthcare, illness and disability, and development. In Esdaile & Olson (Eds.), Mothering occupations (pp. 306-323). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.

Lawlor, M. C., & Mattingly, C. (2009). Understanding family perspectives on illness and disability experience. In Crepeau, Cohn & Schell (Eds.), Willard and Spackman's occupational therapy (pp. 33-44). New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Comments

Research paper

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Oct 21st, 10:55 AM Oct 21st, 11:25 AM

Mealtime Challenges and Children with Autism: Understanding the impact on family occupations

Background: Participation in family mealtimes is consistently linked with indicators of health and well being for children (Fiese & Schwartz, 2008). Children with autism often exhibit differences in their eating and mealtime behaviors (Ahearn, 2001; Bandini et al., 2010). Feeding children is an important part of mothering and these differences with eating and mealtime behaviors can significantly impact a mother's experiences and perspectives.

Methods: Narratively focused interviews were done with five mothers of four- and five-year-old boys diagnosed with autism and feeding difficulties. The interviews focused on their stories about mealtime and mothering a child who had difficulty eating. Data collection took place over a six-month period during which each mother participated in two to four interviews and each family was observed at least once during mealtime. Data analysis consisted of thematic analysis and narrative methodology based on the work of Mattingly and Lawlor (2000). The participants were selected with an emphasis on purposeful diversity. The trustworthiness of the data was ensured through the in-depth engagement with the families, including doing multiple interviews with each informant, and the keeping of a detailed research journal elaborating the reflective process involved in making analytic decisions. Validity of theoretical concepts was checked by returning to the transcripts and the informants as analysis was occurring and performing ongoing outside checking through the presentation of ideas emerging from the data to a group with expertise in mothering, autism, feeding and occupational science.

Results: Analysis of the interviews and observations revealed that the difficulties with eating that these children exhibited had a profound impact on day-to-day lives of these mothers, their children, and their other family members. Each of the mothers in this study spent a significant amount of time working to minimize the impact that their child's challenges related to mealtime and eating had on their family's occupations. This presentation describes how these mothers perceived the impact of mealtime challenges on family occupations and the way they shaped the daily activities of their family to reflect and balance each mother's priorities related to the occupations of their everyday lives.

Discussion Questions:

  1. One of the findings of this study was that stories related to mealtime and feeding children were deeply entwined with stories of other everyday activities. What are the methodological challenges of studying real people in their everyday lives and what are some possible solutions for dealing with these complexities?
  2. This study explored mothers' perceptions about mealtime and related occupations and how these influenced their choices related to food and feeding their children with autism spectrum disorders. Discuss how these findings might inform work related to the health implications of family participation in mealtimes around such issues as diabetes, eating disorders, and obesity.