Thoughts on how to get my three year old to eat.
My three year old has Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
complete with a severe language delay, a couple of fine motor skill delays, sensory issues, and social skills issues.
He can communicate -- has a good number of words and signs, and he is receiving appropriate private and public services (just started preschool!). But, for example, he lacks a lot of expressive language, so he often repeats words we say for something he wants.
For example, if we ask him, "Would you like yogurt?" if he says nothing, then he does not want yogurt. If he says, "Yogurt," then he wants yogurt. So for dinner, we often run down his list of approved dinner foods until we land on something he wants. We go to the effort to make it. And then he won't eat it.
He can't tell us WHY he won't eat it (in the sense that, literally, he can't talk, not just in the sense that he doesn't have the right words). So last night, after settling on spaghetti, he refused to eat it. So my husband made my son sit at the table for some time, which caused a meltdown and my son still didn't eat his spaghetti.
And then this morning, I made him toast (he did not ask for it, I've just been making him breakfast foods I know he eats because he will refuse any and all foods, so I thought just providing a consistent option is a good idea. I leave it where he can reach it and let him know it is there and remind him of it frequently) coupled with two large strawberries and a small slice of cheese. He came running over to me with the strawberries and then the cheese because he didn't want them, and then he picked slightly at the toast with "red jelly." But he didn't really eat.
So he went without dinner last night and then without breakfast this morning and not for lack of trying on our part. Fortunately, he has snack time at school almost first thing so he does have the option of eating again fairly soon after leaving in the morning.
But, again, yesterday, he did not eat breakfast, his teacher reported he did not eat anything at snack time, and then he ate only none-to-some of his food for lunch (everything packed from home with foods we KNOW he loves) and then didn't eat dinner.
We suspect some of this is part of the new routine of going to preschool and then to his still relatively new after-school care. So we're mindfully watching and waiting some. And we suspect with the breakfast thing that he's just one of those people who doesn't eat until he's been up and about for three or four hours (he does eventually eat) since this is nothing new. But overall, we're still concerned he's not eating enough, especially for a long-structured school day with therapies followed by his after-school daycare (who has also had some struggles getting him to eat) and I do think some of his recent acting out is because he is hungry.
So I'm looking for suggestions on what else to try because I hate the thought of him going hungry for most of the day. On weekends, he eats just fine.
What has worked for you in getting your child to eat? Experiences from people with knowledge of autism-spectrum disorders especially appreciated. Comments on just letting him go hungry because he won't eat what we eat are not so helpful or useful in this situation.