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Legend: A qualitative conventional content analysis was used to identify parent strategies in 17 mealtime videos across 12 families. Six different categories were identified that encompassed the strategies that were observed in the mealtime videos: 1) parent intervening and ignoring; 2) meal preparation and adaptability; 3) play and imagination 4) distractions; 5) positive reinforcements; and 6) modeling. See graphic for definitions and examples of the parent mealtime strategies. Multiple strategies were used within a family and often within one meal. However, strategies were used in varying frequency across the participants with parent intervening and ignoring and meal preparation and adaptability being the most prevalent and modeling being the least common.
Citation: Ausderau KK, St. John B, Kwaterski K, Nieuwenhuis B, Bradley E. (in press). Mealtime Strategies for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. American Journal of Occupational Therapy.
Abstract: Objective - Identify and describe parents’ strategies used to support mealtime participation for their child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Method - Twelve families with 1-2 children with ASD (ages 2-7 years) participated in videotaped mealtime observations. Strategies families used to facilitate participation were identified and categorized using qualitative conventional content analysis. Results - Six categories were identified: 1) parent intervening and ignoring; 2) meal preparation and adaptability; 3) play and imagination; 4) distractions; 5) positive reinforcements; and 6) modeling. Props and common child objects (e.g., toys and blankets) that support the child’s participation at mealtime, were not a unique category but rather used within the context of multiple strategies. In addition, increased vigilance within parent actions emerged as an important component of all family mealtimes. Conclusion - Families used multiple strategies within and across mealtimes, highlighting the individualistic nature of feeding challenges. Understanding parent mealtime strategies allows for further investigation into the efficacy and development of intervention strategies for promoting mealtime participation for children with ASD.
About the Lab: Dr. Ausderau’s research focuses on families and children with ASD. She studies daily occupations, specifically eating and mealtimes, to elucidate the impact on the child's health, family wellness, and overall daily participation. In addition, she studies sensory features in children with ASD, including their development, characterization, and impact on daily participation. With better characterization of feeding and sensory behaviors and understanding their influence on daily participation, Ausderau hopes to be able to develop more effective assessment tools, targeted treatment strategies, and improved outcomes for children and families.