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Empowering People, Launching lives

Transforming mealtime through ‘Fun with Food’ sessions

By Occupational Therapists Jessica Hargreaves and Stefani Hapsi

Almost 90% of autistic children display some form of difficulty with eating¹ with reluctance to try new foods a big challenge for many. Elliott, a learner at Park House School, is one of those children. His favourite food is chicken nuggets, and his diet primarily consisted of carbohydrates and processed foods. His mum therefore expressed a desire for him to expand his diet to include more fruits and vegetables, aiming for better nutritional balance. We worked with Elliott on a range of strategies to introduce more nutritional foods into his diet with incredible results.  

‘Fun with Food’ sessions

A detailed ‘Fun with Food’ parent questionnaire revealed that Elliott enjoyed meat and preferred dry-textured foods, avoiding anything wet or with a liquid texture like sauces and gravies. With this insight, the Therapy Team designed a series of 15-minute weekly ‘Fun with Food’ sessions to gently encourage Elliott’s food exploration. The sessions took place in the school’s kitchen—a quiet, minimally distracting environment that provided a natural setting for eating and skill development. The focus was on making food exploration fun and pressure-free.

To start, our Occupational Therapists introduced frozen fruits and vegetables, such as green peas, blueberries, sweetcorn and carrots which Elliott could choose to warm up using a microwave if he wished. This approach gave Elliott control over his food and independence in adapting its temperature and presentation. Gradually, Elliott became more comfortable around new foods, experimenting with textures using both utensils and his own hands, whereas previously he preferred only using utensils.

Celebrating Elliott’s progress

As a result of these sessions, Elliott has shown significant progress. He is now more confident around new foods, willing to explore different textures and has expanded his sensory experience by tasting and smelling various foods like peas, rice, carrots, and blueberries. He has even used his hands to feel the texture of sweetcorn and expressed that he likes tomato sauce.


“Although Elliott still has some way to go with his limited diet, I’m pleased to say he now eats rice and chips! Hooray! He has a real interest in looking at food more. His next target is still fruit and vegetables but adding rice and chips is massive progress to his limited diet.” 

Elliott’s mum


The continued success of the ‘Fun with Food’ sessions lies in their gradual, non-pressuring approach. By allowing Elliott to make choices about his food, we aim to build a relationship of trust and further reduce his barriers to food exploration, increasing the variety of foods he is willing to eat. This not only enhances his daily nutrition but also broadens the range of places where he can comfortably eat within the community.

Ensuring autistic individuals have the life skills to live their ideal week 

The progress that Elliott has shown in the Fun with Food sessions serves as a powerful example of the positive impact of a tailored approach to teaching life skills. By focusing on our learners’ unique needs and actively involving them in the process, we aim to equip them with the skills necessary for greater independence and choice in their lives. The approach taken by our Therapy Team not only teaches Elliott the life skills necessary to live his ideal week, but will also improve his nutritional intake and enable him to live a more independent and fulfilling life.  


If you’d like to support us in helping more children like Elliott, make a donation today.

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Or if you’d like to find out more about autism and eating challenges, why not take a look at our resource hub? Find lots of great information on healthy eating, visual recipes, fun with food and more.


1. Ledford, J. R., & Gast, D. L. (2006). Feeding problems in children with autism spectrum disorders a review. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 21(3), 153-166

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