Monitoring wellbeing using a food and mood chart
We developed this food and mood chart when working with a non-verbal young man who had multiple but unclear food intolerances. This led to a highly limited diet that felt unethical. It was also felt this led to behaviours i.e the child will take food from others, self injury etc. Gluten free and other special diets can have a huge impact on a child’s wellbeing. If we can identify the foods the child is actually allergic to or intolerant of we can reduce discomfort and illness whilst maintaining a broad and varied diet.
Diet and behaviour
My work with multiple young people with very restricted diets has led me to believe that these should be clearly defined. It is our job to ensure these are as varied as possible. Food restriction in autistic people is an ethical issue especially if they are not advocating for themselves. We need to get it right and start to teach the skills to identify these foods. This may involve identifying ingredients and symbols whilst shopping.
In conjunction with an NHS dietician we kept a food diary. This is not uncommon and allows us to review food intake over time. The mood element allows us to see any potential correlation between food and mood. Of course this does not mean there is a causal relationship. Due to the nature of the school routine and other interventions in place the diary provided additional evidence of factors that affected the child’s wellbeing. We also maintain records of behaviours displayed so we could identify and mitigate other triggers to challenging behaviour.
Another key element that it is important to monitor is sleep. Discomfort in the digestive tract can impact sleep
This record meant we could slowly increase the child’s diet. Maintaining a close eye on the impact of any new foods. After a few weeks the child’s diet contained almost 100% more food items. We no longer had to lock other children’s food away for fear of a reaction or causing unintentional harm.
Before you put a child on any sort of restricted diet this will allow you to build up a record of their food whilst you wait for an appointment or consultation. Download the free PDF Mood Food and Sleep chart below.Kelly Sikkema
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