LUNCHBOX TIPS FOR PARENTS OF AUTISTIC STUDENTS
The school is not your child’s typical playground where they can have as much fun as they like without having a single thing to worry about. When your child becomes a student, they have to carry that academic responsibility of following their school rules and regulations and making the necessary effort to at least garner passing grades in all of their school subjects. Classroom activities will not only be limited to books and board instructions but can also include physical activities that require a great deal of energy. Overall, your child’s school endeavors will eventually raise the need to provide them with the right kind of food which will enhance both their intellectual and physical performance in school. This responsibility of the parent is given higher importance when it comes to their autistic child’s lunch meals because this is the kind of food serving that most students cannot enjoy inside their homes but only in their school’s canteen or dining area. If your child’s school does not offer a canteen program for its students, or you simply don’t want to trust your child’s nutrition to their school canteen, here are some of the lunchbox tips that you need to remember if you’re hands on in making your child’s mid-day meal.
Choosing your child’s lunchbox can be as equally important as deciding about the kind of meal you’d have to prepare for them. Your child’s lunchbox should not only be functional but must also look and feel very interesting so that your child will eagerly look forward to opening it during lunchtime. Consider going for a lunchbox that’s imprinted with your child’s favorite cartoon character, or with a unique design that they’ll surely love. When it comes to durability and convenience, you have to check the material used in manufacturing the lunchbox. As much as possible, avoid those that are made from PVC plastic because these are known to contain toxic components. Choose only the easy-open lunchboxes for your child to prevent them from getting frustrated over opening their food, but not those overly loose types that can easily spill over or leak out the contents.
Aside from the nutritional content of your child’s lunchbox, you must also consider the presentation factor that also influences how much your child enjoys the whole meal. Many parents forget how picky their child can be when it comes to food, and appearance can easily dictate whether or not the contents of the lunchbox are consumed. Considering as well that your child follows a GF/CF diet, there must be special food portions that are not appetizing to look at when they’re not fashioned in a special way. To add a bit of excitement and fun in your autistic child’s overall lunch time, try going for a bento-themed lunchbox. Bento is a kind of Japanese lunchbox that’s popular due to the level of creativity one can put into its contents. A bento box is typically comprised of a single portion of meat or fish, a good amount of rice, and a side of vegetables. The container can be a single section or divided into several compartments. What makes bento-themed lunchboxes extra special is the part where the food itself can be shaped and formed in a cool and fun way. The rice or any plain-colored carbohydrates can be shaped into platforms or cartoon faces, and the more colorful meat and veggies can be used to add details to and decorative parts.
Although it is always preferred to go for fresher ingredients over processed ones, weekdays can be very busy for parents like you. Going for hot dogs and sausages, canned ingredients, and sweetened or pickled fruits and vegetables might be not as nutritional as the fresher options for your child’s lunchbox meal. However, there are instances when you have to go for it to save time and resources. It is still a satisfactory choice, but when it comes to processed foods, you have to consider many things such as expiration dates, brand or label, and the presence of certain additives that can cause adverse effects to your child’s condition.
About Food Sharing
While sharing food between classmates and schoolmates is a good value that any parent can teach to their child, autistic students must not be left unchecked in this context. If your child is still not able to learn the nature of their diet, there is a great chance that they’d be willing enough to share their food with others and partake what others give to them as well. To prevent your child from eating gluten and casein containing food, you have to at least educate them about why they have to stick to their GF/CF diet and be more cautious about sharing and swapping food with others. Simple command statements such as “don’t eat this or that” will not work when arguing with your autistic child. Instead, provide them with the simple reasoning behind why they have to follow your advice. You can say “because it might worsen your sensory issues” or “it will upset your stomach”, and while you’re at it, also provide a list of food that they have to avoid and those that they are allowed to eat.
Preparing the Lunchbox
To help your child better understand the importance of eating the meal you prepare for them during school days, it might be a good practice to let them join you in the preparation stage every once in a while. This is a good habit for parents that are not really creative when it comes to making lunchboxes and such, so the extra surprise factor is actually out of the picture. You can teach them about the nutritional value of each food component while you let them arrange the whole lunchbox, as well as the process involved in making them. You might even be surprised how creative your child will be in preparing their own lunchbox. This will not only give you and your child an additional bonding time but it will also be a very educational moment for them.