Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"What... you want me to eat that??"

Every day, I sit and wonder what I'm going to cook up for Munchkin for her breakfast, lunch and dinner. I think about what stains least when it's spat back at me. I ponder the thoughts of just giving her biscuits and her milk for an easier life... but the responsible parent deep within me knows I must at least attempt to get her to eat something slightly more nutritious than a box of Maccy Dees fries and burger meat (no buns, no sauce and definitely no pickle!!)

I'm not alone in this curious battle to get my little girl to eat. A huge percentage of children on the spectrum have issues when it come to foods and what they will accept on their plates. When Yani was little, she was an atrocious eater and I looked for help from my GP who said to me at the time "no child will willingly let themselves starve to death." I do believe though, that I have met some girls who's children would rather starve than eat what is presented to them.

Munchkins food issues started very early on, even when feeding her myself, she wouldn't let me hold her close, preferring me to lie her on the bed beside me and would only take a small amount at each feed. When I returned to work and my friend was minding her, she point blank refused to feed from the bottle and my friend frantically was dripping milk into her mouth as was worried she'd dehydrate before I returned! When she was introduced to solid food, she would only eat pureed foods and would choke on lumps of any type. Forget about chewing...

Before diagnosis, I read up a lot about food issues as slowly but surely, more and more foods started dropping off her list of accepted foods. There was a definite problem that needed addressing fast. I had a feeding assessment done which I blogged about here, and that showed up that it was definitely a sensory problem she had rather than a behavioural one so the battle to introduce new foods began...

I read a fabulous book called "Can't Eat, Won't Eat.. Dietary Difficulties and Autism Spectrum Disorders" by Brenda Legge which explained very well to me the different issues our kids have when it comes to foods. I laughed out loud at one woman's description of variety in her child's dinner was if she was allowed to put the ketchup to the right of the nuggets and not the left! It is well worth a read and if you look at this link you can read the first few chapters and get a feel for the book.

For months and months, Munchkin would eat the same dinner every single night. Pasta with Bunalun Organic Tomato and Vegetable sauce... On the advice of the feeding therapist, I allowed her to have the same breakfast and dinner each day and only had to battle with her at lunchtime to at least try a new food. Using reinforcement and promise procedures it took a long time, but eventually I managed to get her to accept a few new foods. We now had pancakes, pasta, sauce, yogurt, fruitapura, crackers and salmon in her daily diet. I was delighted to have a variety of foods I could offer her (I know that a lot of readers would think there was a very limited range of foods there but considering some kids will only eat one or two types that was a lot!) Then disaster struck... she stopped accepting pasta and sauce at dinner and would nearly throw herself out of the highchair to get away from it!) I needed to find new foods....

Nowadays, she will eat a bit more for me and even last week ate her very first piece of birthday cake! I nearly danced with joy when she picked up a fork at a friends birthday party and without me even suggesting she try it put some in her mouth!! A huge milestone for Munchkin.

Dinner these days is usually spaghetti bolognaise with spiral pasta shapes (if you change to a different shape it's not accepted) I have her eating bananas and a variety of potato shapes and waffles for lunch, and she now tries dairy free chocolate (no daughter of mine could go through life without chocolate hehe) She still wants to be fed as doesn't want her hands to get sticky, and will not eat anymore if any is spilled until it's cleaned up but its not as much of a struggle these days as it was...


Anonymous said...

hit the nail on the head, as always petunia
claire xx

jazzygal said...

How I wish that book was out when I was starting on our journey Petunia. The grief I got from GP, Consultants (incl Prof Drumm!!) no-one understood that it was sensory...and fear of change. Until the Lucena Psych assessed him ( the 2nd one that is..the 1st one didn't get it either!) OF COURSE at that stage ASD was in her head. Suddenly it all made sense. To them... I already knew that THIS WAS NOT NORMAL!!

I remember feeling like dancing on the roof when he ate a proper dinner for the first time .Aged 4 and a half! So, persevere (perseverance the theme of my post too!)and little by little their menu will expand.

I think they'll always self-limit though. Wiiboys menu has expanded greatly but he tends to eat the same things when he visits the same place..like pub for tea and holiday hotel. But, so what .. cos at this stage it's more balanced. Very worrying when they're younger though. I remember it well. xx J

Clive said...

Hi Petunia
We have the very same food issues here just a slightly different group of foods - which has to be eaten and can't be changed! The not-so-little man is 11 now and growing so I guess an extremely limited diet is not effecting his growth but how I do wish he would eat a little more varied food. It's a ocnstant battle but one we're fighting all the time with some small victories here and there!

Take care

Jean said...

great (and hugely useful! ) blog petunia. We have big food issues in our house...chewing ws a very big problem and it's also a sensory thing with my little man, rather than a "taste" issue.
Sometimes i have a nice little worry about the fact that pretty much all he eats is mashed spuds and beans, weetbix and choccie spread on pretty much anything. But, like Clive, despite this he's a big strapping lad and is taller than most of his classmates.
Thanks for the info re that book...i must check it out.
Great post missus XXX

Anonymous said...

Great post, I have a problem with my fella too but its more the fact that he grazes a lot and does not eat dinners, if he eats a dinner he wants me to feed him even though he is capable of doing it himself. He doesn't know when he is full and just asks for crackers and cheese or ham sandwich all the time. Despite all this he is a healthy happy child so I try not to worry about it too much.


Anonymous said...

really good post Petunia, like the others we have an array of eating issues, Munchkin will eat anything (except mushrooms) the problem with him is that he is NEVER full... Boo wont chew lumps and only in the past year has he accepted chicken, meat of any sort and veg (went through a ritual with him of smelling things only, then licking things, then putting it in his mouth for a bit, to finally eating it - he will still rub things off his cheeks before declaring he doesnt like it!!), Snooky puts EVERYTHING into his juice or milk before fishing it out to eat it, doesnt like anything strong in flavour or with too many lumps so another battle ensues there.. we must look like a right mad lot when we (rarely) go out to dinner.. all of them are feeding passers-by and all grab a bit from the plate, circle the room and come back for more which makes mealtimes a really long process.
Like the others, all the boys are tall for their ages, and although Munchkin is really skinny (he eats the most of all), they are all healthy thank God.
Feeding is such a stressful part of ASD life, and obviously unavoidable!!

tazzy said...

Great post, again! Button is quite limited in the foods he'll eat, but about 3 months ago he just started asking to try some of our dinners. He'll now eat quite a range of stuff as long as it's on someone elses plate!! So he gets his regular dinner and then usually something else from my palte. He never stops eating - he says "I have an appetite!!" but would fill up on chips and crisps given the chance. He's very skinny and tall, but healthy as a horse!

Kim Wombles said...

Gotta echo everyone, great job. :-) The bright boy was our most challenging food-wise, and the positive of this is that as difficult as he was fifteen years ago, there are no food issues now (well, brussel sprouts and cabbage, but who wouldn't?). He outgrew them all. The girlies have their issues, as well, but through a lot of bribing, we manage to get a small bite of veggies into Lil every night. Ice cream for dessert as an incentive works wonders! So do video watching privileges. It took some time to get over the gag reflex issues, but things are looking up.

Sounds like Munchkin's made a lot of progress recently on more than one front! :-)

Tulippy said...

Rings true here too, even the specially ordered birthday cake this week, "cream, no chocolate and no fruit", was totally ignored, though he did blow the candles out.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post, i would love to print this out and take it to my G.P Lucena Clinic, and everyone else you thinks i am mad, I have been struggling all my 12 year old sons life to get him to eat, never took solids as a baby, like others i was told no child will starve and to stop giving him the bottle, this of course did not work. Eats the same thing every day no nutrition, and smells new food, will not eat foods that touch of each other. When he did start to eat he would eat a lot of the same thing, very thirsty. child, likes a lot of salt and pours half a bottle of vinegar on his chips. Refuses to eat any type of fruit or vegetable. like others is tall for his age dont know if this is just genetic as his father was also tall. But the most frustrating thing for me, is everyone around me with the same attitude, when clearly my son has had these issues from a baby. Does anyone know who i could go to to help with this? obviously the medical proffession are useless when it comes to recognising these problems. once again thanks for this great post, it has truly inspired me to take no prisoners lol

Casdok said...

I am amazed that C has grown to 6 foot on the little he eats. And hasnt got any better as he has got older :(

Lisa said...

Bratty eats something From each of The 5 food groups: crisps/ hoops , chocolate, chicken nuggets, fríes and Apple juice.
She is The healthiest in our house and is going to be taller than her mammy very Soon. By The way, Love munchkins dress! Xx

Anonymous said...

This is one of our main issues! I relate to nearly everything you have written and didn't even know it was a problem until DS's OT pointed it out in the assessment.
Wehave so many limits but he will eat good portions of those at least.

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