Layla gets on track to healthy eating

By Indi Fillery

Brand Engagement Officer

Layla has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and began experiencing issues as a result of some unhealthy eating habits.

Layla’s mother Alicia said she didn’t know what to do, especially when Layla was missing out on vital nutrition associated with healthy eating.

Layla and her mum hug in the garden.

Pictured: Alicia (L) and Layla (R)

“All the bad foods – I couldn’t keep her away from them,” Alicia said.

“I had no idea where to start. I was completely at a loss. We were a family that needed help.”

Layla’s family made the difficult decision to place Layla on medication temporarily to help manage her behaviour and anger issues.

“It was an exceptionally hard choice for us, but I feel like it was the best option at the time. Hopefully, once we learn more behaviour management strategies we can help Layla handle her emotions and impulses, then she can come off the medication,” Alicia said.

The medication has worked exceptionally well in terms of Layla’s behaviour, but also led to a rapidly declining appetite and Layla lost weight quickly.

“We met with Claire Breen, one of the dietitians on Therapy Focus’ MEAHLS Team, and devised a plan for Layla for some after school snacks,” Alicia said.

“We have also tried the nutritional drink PediaSure to bulk up her food intake and she is finding flavours she likes.”

The family have continued to work with the MEAHLS Team and developed a plan of action to help combat Layla’s mealtime issues. This included trialling an ‘all done bowl’ for foods Layla is finished with, using visual food charts, and serving buffet-style meals where Layla can serve herself and experiment with new foods without fear.

Alicia said her family celebrated the victories whether they were big or small.

“Eating a whole meal is a big deal – it may seem small to some people, but to us, it’s huge.”

In speaking about Layla’s diagnosis and accessing Therapy Focus’ comprehensive therapy services more broadly, Alicia said she felt an enormous sense of relief.

“The way in which people reacted to Layla changed once we had a diagnosis. There was suddenly acceptance, understanding and a great deal of patience,” she said.

“Layla was always the ‘naughty kid’ at school, and since getting help from her therapy team, Layla has become a better friend. She is learning to maintain friendships and she is even getting invited to birthday parties, which was non-existent before.”

Alicia said that with the help of Therapy Focus, she had learnt as a mother how to respond to Layla more positively and understand her emotions.

“Being a special needs Mum can be incredibly stressful at times, but with the help of Layla’s therapy team, it has been less stressful and more rewarding. We have watched her learn and grow into the young lady she is today.”

Moving forward, Alicia said she was hopeful about the future.

“We just want Layla to enjoy her life and have the same opportunities as every other child. Most importantly, we want her to be happy within herself.”

To learn more about Therapy Focus’ mealtime management services, call 1300 135 373.

Need mealtime help?

We provide specialist support for people with disability who have difficulty eating or drinking, or who need help during mealtimes.