I am floored by the fact it has been almost a YEAR now since we started to clean up our diet. I admit we are not perfect; but we strive to eliminate the ‘artificials’ (colors, perspectives, flavors, sweeteners) and to limit the naturals that we’ve seen an effect from (apples mainly). Honestly I am still pushing myself, and our diet, to get things even better – I have to admit, again, I am floored we’ve been at this a year – but I am not too disappointed in where we are. There is more to do, and Momma really should be much more strict, but we’ve seen improvement and I can tell when we cheat too much.
Big Brother is working with a great Occupational Therapist on eating; his eating issues are many-fold. Yes some of it, maybe a lot, is a learned behavior; but that is just as legitimate as any other trial. Some of it is physical, and some emotional; and some of it sensory. Furthermore the challenges all cycle, feeding and reinforcing each other continually; making the sequence very arduous to effect much less stop.
The cycle is hard to describe, and the hardest part is to find the starting point. Big Brother has a physical problem knowing how to move food around in his mouth as he chews; we feel this is connected to the speech issues also. His mouth CAN do what it is supposed to (for speech and eating) but he continues to struggle with it, and while he is able to make all the correct muscle moves they do not occur automatically for him like they do for most. He has trouble chewing, and moving the food around as he chews to chew effectively. This leads him to like foods that break apart or shatter as he bites into them or chomps down on them (think crispy bacon, or carrot stick) and dislike foods that he is less successful with (think a bite of hamburger, or pasta or stake). He also likes bite sized food rather than food to be bitten off, unless it “shatters off” as he bites it (think saltine cracks vs piece of bread). After a long time with this physical challenge it has become a learned behavior to choose ‘easy foods’. It has now become an emotional issue as well as he frequently gets anxious when faced with a food he doesn’t feel successful with or an unknown food. This cycle serves to reinforce itself. Big Brother also has some sensory issues regarding how food feels (stick mac and cheese for example) and this may be a learn behavior remaining from a time (he was 1 and 2 and even 3) when he did not like to get his hands messy – now that ‘hand messy’ issue is gone but the learned behavior of avoid food remains, and has grown into an emotional / anxiety issue because he has been invested in that behavior for so long. He also has sensory issues, learned or not, regarding the food in him mouth and on his lips. In addition he has a hard time judging the amount of food in his mouth with physical feedback cues like most people, either over filling his mouth or under filling it, this contributes to his difficulty chewing correctly. This, then, in turn leads to him feeling less and less successful and more and more anxious and then the cycle is reinforced yet again.
He has recently been starting to break out of the cycle in small amount. He ate spinach for the first time last week! Each increase in amount, or each new food is a hard von battle that is accomplished only ‘when the stars align and you hold your tongue correctly’. I’ll tell you I was as excited about that spinach as any mom is about a first step!!
We are all learning a lot about eating, and his eating and progress is being made. I have some interesting educational information to blog about soon; about eating and eating in special needs children.
Daddy and I are happy with the Family Food Plan and plan to continue it – in fact Momma is thinking it is time to crack down a bit more and focus. I can’t believe it has been a year, almost, gee I just now feel I am getting handle on it. LOL