Kids will be kids and getting them to eat their vegetables is a problem in most households. But when your child has a sensory disorder, the challenge of getting him to eat healthy becomes a bit more difficult. Katrina Moody and her husband Jim are the proud parents of three boys. Jim and all the boys, Bobby, age 12, Andy, age 11, and Logan, age 7 have Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that goes hand in hand with a variety of additional diagnoses including autism.

Among the challenges that the Moody family faces each day is that of ensuring the boys eat a healthy diet. Moody says that because the boys struggle a bit to gain weight, she and her husband got into the habit of feeding them based on calorie count rather than nutrition. It became difficult to get on track with getting the kids to each veggies because of the sensory issues that come along with autism. Moody is currently making the transition from hiding veggies in her kids' food to teaching the boys about the importance of a balanced diet.

Start Slow and Build on Successes

"My guys will try a bit of any veggie I put on their plate for the first time, and know now that they have to eat a small amount of any repeat veggies," explains Moody.

Due to the variety of texture preferences around her kitchen table, Moody offers 2-3 choices of veggies each night. This gives the boys the opportunity to try a new vegetable, and if it doesn't go well, there are some favorites available too. For Moody's older two boys, corn is tough. They can't seem to chew it well enough and end up choking on it. They'll eat one kernel at a time, and that's fine with Moody because she knows they are at least trying. And as long as they are trying, Moody considers the meal a success. Her advice is to start with a small amount, tiny even, and get them to eat just a bite. Celebrate the small victories and move forward from there.

Set Goals

"We've have goals and sub goals," says Moody. "For instance, right now we are working up to them eating all of any given veggie on their plate, just a few bites worth, even if they don't like it."

Having a plan in your mind of how to approach mealtime will help. If you can move in stages, with set ideas of how much of what you expect your child to eat, he will eventually catch on. While goals are important, Moody says you should still move at your child's pace.

Know Your Kids

Moody knows that her boys love peas and carrots. Raw carrots for Bobby and Andy, but cooked for Logan. And they all agree on the household favorite of potatoes fried in olive oil. Therefore, those are some staples she keeps on hand. But because of the variety of sensory issues, Moody makes sure that the newer choices she puts on the table are both cooked and raw. She feels it is important to understand your child's sensory preferences in order to make the healthy eating process much easier.

"I think it boils down to listening to what your kid isn't telling you, or isn't able to tell you," explains Moody, "Sometimes kids just don't want to eat their veggies, but sometimes there are reasons for it. Your job as the parent is to understand your child enough to try. And then find ways to work around it or offer choices and alternatives. Give your kid a choice in a world where he might not be feeling like he has many choices."

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