Day 18: Autism Awareness Blogathon
Today I am co-blogging with That Cynking Feeling. We got to chatting last week and found that we are both doing a blogging marathon for autism this month. Se we decided to choose a topic and both of us are writing about it from our different perspectives. Here is hers (and you’ve got to love a title like this): Smells Like Toddler Spirit and here is mine:
‘Time for dinner! Come and sit at the table’. I am ignored.
I walk over to L who is sitting playing with his ribbon and occasionally giving a sideways glance at the television. I turn the tv off. I get down to his level, eye to eye, make sure I have his attention and say ‘dinner time, tv is finished, come and sit at the table now please’.
L looks at me and smiles but makes no move towards the table. I go over to the kitchen, get his bowl of dinner and take it to him. I put the bowl under his nose. He glances at it momentarily, but gives the food a good hearty sniff. Suddenly, he is alert. I whisk the bowl back to the table and repeat ‘time for dinner L, come and sit at the table’. He looks at me and smiles, looks at where the bowl is and walks over to his place at the table. He sits down, picks up his spoon and starts to eat his meal. With every spoonful he becomes more enthusiastic, more aware that he is hungry. He eats the entire bowl of food.
‘More dinner or finished?’ ‘More dinner’ another bowl of curry and rice goes the way of the first. ‘More dinner or finished?’ ‘Finished Mum’, ‘OK, bowl in the sink please’. He checks if he might be able to get away with not putting his bowl in the sink, but realising that I am 100% attending to his every move, he picks up his bowl and drops it into the sink.
‘Thank you darling’ He goes back to the ribbon which stayed in his hand through the entire meal.
It’s a routine we have worked on for a couple of years now. He eats about 80% of the meals I make for him. This time last year it was about 50%. He is not what I would call a picky eater like some people on the spectrum are, but he certainly has a distinctive set of preferences.
For my boy, his food must be soft and wet – not hard and crunchy. No biting or heavy chewing. He won’t eat bread, biscuits, crackers, pies, pastry etc. He WILL eat, a ragingly hot curry, casseroles, sausages, breakfast cereal, baked beans, pancakes, rice pudding & cake. He is what is called a sensory seeker. He seeks sensation. His ribbon and various other stimming activities give him the sensory feedback that help him to be calm and happy.
In my many years B.C. (before children) I had never heard about sensory processing. I thought there were 5 senses – everybody said so and I believed them. Turns out there are 7 and I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few more years, they decided there were more.
In case you were wondering, the two mystery senses are the proprioceptive and the vestibular. Proprioception is all about knowing/feeling what our body parts, muscles and joints are doing and where they are. The vestibular sense is all about where our bodies are in space, about gravity, balance and movement.
Sensory processing is all about how the brain processes the information we receive from our environment. You might remember me describing L’s Cortical Vision Impairment in the I Knew Better post. So I knew he had visual processing issues, but it turns out that all of his sensory processing is impacted.
L needs to smell his meal before he is able to decide if he will eat it or not, or if he is even hungry. The ‘we eat with our eyes’ saying does not apply to him. Most of the time he does not even realise that he is hungry or thirsty. Luckily he will usually eat a good breakfast, but for a while last year he would then go all day without eating or drinking anything except some bathwater. Great!
I was able to get some support from the Feeding Clinic at our local children’s hospital. There you get to meet with a Speechie, an OT and a Dietician and they help you to put a plan together to widen the menu, expand the sensory diet and help you with putting some rules in around food and eating.
The rules are pretty simple:
- only serve one meal – don’t go making the old favorites if the meal you have served is refused
- keep offering new foods, but only one at a time – you need to present food at least 20 times
- stay upbeat about food/dinner/eating – try not to get emotional, desperate or angry
- be as creative as you can by moving incrementally towards a new food – if they like chicken curry, try beef curry or indian or thai
For any one who is interested, the book ‘The Brain That Changes Itself’ by Norman Doidge is a remarkable adventure into the world neuroplasticity and the now very famous ‘Out of Sync Child Has Fun’ by Carol Stock Kranowitz is an incredible resource for parents.