Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Sensory Challenged Eater

 After reading a controversial blog post regarding how to differentiate picky eater vs. sensory challenged eaters, I decided I needed to vent my thoughts. Especially about how the writer wanted to teach other mothers that it was okay to send their children to bed hungry. The Special Needs Mommy in me screamed “Um NO!” and that is what I posted. After doing so, a friend of a friend provided her viewpoints and rules for dinner. I, personally, plan to implement these ideas into my home and want to share them with all of you.

Jennifer H. wrote:

The problem with "he will eventually eat when he's hungry" is that this was flat out not true with my son. His body just learned to ignore his hunger pains, because his mild sensory issues took precedence. Once I figured all this out, the new rules for dinner were:

1. Dinner rules are reviewed at the beginning of each meal and then not one more word is to be mentioned regarding "TMan's food." (For the first few weeks I intercepted both my husband and son with, "We are not talking about that!" - a LOT.)

2. TMan was to try at least one reasonable sized bite of everything - and swallow it. My mantra there was, "NOTHING further happens until that does." Including dessert or getting up from the table.

3. TMan was to talk respectfully about the food. I encouraged statements like, "No thanks, I didn't really like it TODAY." ("Today" is important, because as we all know, our tastes change and he may very well like something next week. This statement encourages him to try it again later.) No "gross" faces, and no whining.

If he followed the rules and really, truly didn't like a substantial amount of the food, I would make him something else so that he wouldn't go hungry. If *I* had the same experience, I would do the same thing! We've had meals before where everything turned out crappy. I'm not going to say, "Oh well, I guess I'm going to have to starve tonight."

Needless to say, we had a few rough weeks at the beginning while everyone adjusted, but after a few months, the transformation was amazing!

TMan learned that by trying things, some things he will like (or would become new favorite foods!), and other things he won't - today. He gained momentum after every new food he was "forced" to try that he discovered that he liked. And finally something clicked, and he is now more often than not very willing to try new things.

Dinner time is now SO much more enjoyable, especially since his younger brother doesn't have these issues, and the choices on our dinner menu has expanded exponentially for all of us! 

And, I might add, in the last 2 years he has gone from being in the 20th percentile for weight to the 55th, and has caught up with his peers in height.

I do think you have to take a hard line, yet reasonable, approach to this or it won't work. Setting up the expectation and maintaining follow through is what reduced my son's efforts to battle. This was also essential in changing his mental perspective from "new food is the enemy" to "well let's give it a try."

The body follows the mind. 

I would like to know what you do in your home?  Please share your ideas in the comments.

 Bridget is going to transform meal times in her one home.

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