Autistic son won't eat at daycare?

Question:My son is 4 and recently started at daycare. He is having a very hard time adjusting to it. He refuses to eat and works himself up sick to the point of vomiting. How can I make this easier on both of us and get him to enjoy "school"?

Daycare can be very tough for autistic children. It tends to have a lot going on, with minimal adult supervision and lots of noise. If your son has sensitivity to noise (amounts or volume) you may want to have him wear headphones ( get a cheap pair at the dollar store and cut the wire off) or earmuffs to dampen the volume and noise while he adjusts. The next thing to do is to follow the daycare schedule at home as well, at least for now. He is not used to the changes, so having them apply all the time should help. Next, you will need to take a look at the daycare you have chosen. Have they had any prior exeperience in working with children on the spectrum? Are they simply expecting your son to fit right in and follow along? Are they frustrated by the issues that are popping up? If they have no expereince and are simply treating him like any other child, you need to educate them. First, you need to clearly explain your child's diagnosis, his likes and dislikes and a list of the warning signs that he is beginning to have a tough time. Work with them to find a way to help him understand the schedule..a picture schedule with the use of visual or sound cues for transition, plenty of warning that it is time to move on to the next activity, the possibility of having just one aide work with him for now. If your son has an IEP (and if he has not been screened by the public school, I highly recommend doing so..he may qualify for a special pre-K that would take place for half or a full school day, limiting his time in daycare), provide a copy of it to the daycare. They are not legally bound to follow it, but it can give them useful information on how to handle your child and his needs. Finally, you will have to really look at this placement. Give it some time, but if things have not shown some level of improvement (and your child should be happy, not just managable) you may need to reconsider this placement. Not all daycare is appropriate for all kids...special needs or not. Autistic children have a tougher time. Child care issues are one of the biggest challanges special needs parents fact. It is the reason I have never gone to work..there were simply no options available that met my son's needs. Now of course, many parents have to work. If your son is not happy in his daycare, you may want to consider using an in-home child care provider rather than a center or look for a smaller, home based daycare. I hope some of this helps.
Well I think there are a lot of questions that need to be answered first before a good solution can developed. Where does your son land on the spectrum? Is he highly verbal and can he be reasoned with on a relatively easy basis? Has he had lots of friends growing up so far? Does he have a teacher or aid that he has taken to yet? and would they be willing to give him some extra attention for the time being? How many hours a week is he at the school/day care? How many kids are in the school/day care? Is he getting his favorite food? Both my boys are Autistic and have been in some sort of school since around the age of 2. My older son (who is more severe) had a really hard time adjusting to school, it took him almost a month to finally get comfortable with his surroundings. Mind you he also went part time, half days and only four days a week. Eventually we worked him a little more full time, but that was another adjustment which had consequences. The school was a huge help in that they assigned an aid to help with both adjustments. Eventually he loved school so much that he DID not want to leave! My younger son who is autistic but very low on the spectrum is a social butterfly, so his first day he told Mom to leave already!! Good luck and e-mail me back with your answers and maybe I can give you some more advice.
Put mom or dad's picture in a frame. Place it in front of his meal. It may make him feel more comfortable just seeing you while he eats. Visual cues are very effective. Perhaps a photo of him eating at home with you would help also...letting him know what he is expected to do.
I work in a center and we have 2 autistic children. First thing to ask is, do they have the resources to spend one on one time with him? Does the director call you daily to tell you about the "problems" looking for you to ansewr them? In our state he is not too young to qualify for an IEP through early intervention. (Call your school district) They should be able to provide an aide to be with him most of the day. Does his school allow outside food? If not, have your pediatrician write a note saying he needs to bring his own lunch. One of our boys will only eat food out of a McDonald's bag. It is always food from home, but it is the bag that is important to him. You may not have him in the right place. A lot of the larger corporate centers have disability managers that can help make sure the setting would be appropriate for your little guy. Ask your director about this. If she is not supportive of you , I can almost assure you her staff is not either. I wish you luck!

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