Feeding Children with Special Needs

Feeding Children with Special Needs Some disabilities and other exceptional needs may affect children’s nutrition. For example,

 children with cerebral palsy or cystic fibrosis may have different caloric needs

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 children with celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome may have dietary restrictions

 children with cleft lip or palate may have physical difficulties with eating

 children on the autism spectrum may have strong food preferences or aversions


Because each child’s specific needs will vary, early care and education programs should work closely with families, and medical providers as needed, to ensure that they understand and can meet the nutritional and feeding needs of the individual child (not a generalization or assumption about the child might need based on a diagnosis or label). Nutrition policies and practices should be created to be inclusive of children with special needs. Some general considerations early care and education programs and schools should make to ensure that all children’s nutritional needs are met and that all children experience positive meal and snack times include:

 Ensure that the spaces in which children eat and access to drinking water are fully accessible to all children, including those with mobility impairments (and if needed, assistive devices should be provided).

 Staff should be trained to provide for children who may have additional or differing nutritional or feeding needs so they can work effectively and comfortably with all children.