Ideas To Help Your Child Take Supplements

November 22nd, 2015

Vitamin supplementation is a road often traveled for families with children on the autism spectrum. Varied dietary issues, careful food choices and food intolerances make it hard to make sure each child gets all the vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy body.

Here are some suggestions for getting supplements and medications (as needed) into your child’s belly:

  • Give in jam or syrup or pear sauce over a GFCFSF (gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free) waffle or pancakes.

  • Cook/bake supplements that ARE NOT HEAT SENSITIVE into sauces, cookies or muffins.

    • Essential fatty acids and calcium can be cooked.

    • To determine heat tolerances of supplements, please check the manufacturers’ labels. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer and/or your doctor.

    • Do not heat oils such as cod liver oil or flaxseed oil. Be sure to check labels about heat for each supplement. If there is no information on the label, contact the manufacturer.

  • In diluted juice or milk substitute (hemp, almond, coconut, rice, etc.)

  • Syringe them directly into your child’s mouth – follow this up with a kiss and a GFCF cookie.

  • Spoon in with maple syrup to disguise flavor.

  • Sprinkle with powdered sugar on cookies or muffins.

  • Teach and reinforce taking supplements during ABA sessions.

  • Give supplements with a highly motivating reinforcer such as TV, computer, or favorite toy.

  • Make GFCF ice cream or smoothies.

  • Teach your child to swallow pills. Here is a common protocol:

    • Start with small pieces of Starburst candy, roll them into tiny balls, and have your child work on swallowing these without chewing.

    • Give a small piece of candy with a favorite drink. Place it on the child's tongue. Give the drink and gently push the child’s head towards his/her chest. The liquid and gravity will help roll the pill towards the back of the throat and down the hatch.

    • Children who do not like the taste of supplements will be motivated to swallow pills! They can develop this skill at a young age – generally four years old and up.

    • DEMONSTRATE the process! Have your child watch you swallow vitamins. Show the vitamin on your tongue, drink liquid, and then show them that the pill is all gone.

  • A TACA mom’s story on pill-swallowing: “... We started a pill-swallowing program when he was 4 1/2, and practiced it in his home ABA program with his therapists demonstrating. He REALLY wanted to succeed, and honestly gave it a good try, but couldn’t get the pill down. I had ordered a bottle of empty small capsules from Kirkman labs for the practicing (rather than saving used empty capsules, since the therapists were demonstrating and I didn’t want them using capsules that had residual supplements in them). While he couldn’t handle swallowing with water, he had no problem swallowing from a spoonful of applesauce, so we used fruit sauce for about 3-6 months, then tried water again and he got it almost immediately, because he had become comfortable with the feeling of swallowing large pills, and the previous gag reflex went away.

    He only ate enough sauce to get his pills down, so a small cup might last several days (with the opened cup kept in the refrigerator). I also liked this brand because there are several flavor options, so we rotated berry, apple, sour apple, pineapple, and peach so that he was not getting the same thing every day. This also helped prevent him from tiring of eating applesauce at every meal. The fruit sauce helped pills of any size slide right down. We called it his ‘disappearing trick’, and he loved doing it because then his juice (even though heavily diluted), still tasted a lot better with very few supplements added.”

  • Try the Oraflo pill-swallowing cup. For other tools, including a variety of syringes, visit Bluff City Wholesale.


Some children with autism cannot, or will not, swallow pills, so parents need to find another way to get supplements into them. Mixing them into foods is the most popular method, but if you do something to a supplement that ruins it, you’re wasting your time, energy, and money.

The Care and Feeding of Supplements by Mika Bradford, CN, from the September 2006 Newsletter from Kirkman Labs.

Minerals: (non organic)

  • Come from the earth

  • Can be contaminated if not purified

  • Can take the heat and cold

  • Can be used in cooking

Amino Acids:

  • Do not spin them. No blender or mixer.

Vitamins: (organic)

  • Come from organic foods

  • Can be synthetic

  • Can take the cold but will degrade in cooking heat

  • Can freeze


  • Keep refrigerated.

  • Protect from heat and humidity

  • Can be frozen

  • Buy before summer heat to last through the summer

Do not store supplements in a bathroom; vitamins will become dark and may develop brown spots. It is best to keep them in a cool, dry place out of the sunlight and away from moisture, with the lid closed tightly. If weather is extremely humid, putting the bottle in a zip lock plastic bag helps keep moisture out.




PDR Supplement A 2005: Physicians' Desk Reference (Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR) Supplement) by PDR Physicians Desk Reference for supplement descriptions and doses.

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