October 3, 2008

Smashed Potatoes

One of the things that you typically encounter with sensory issues is eating problems. Certain foods have too strong a smell or don't look right or the texture is not tolerable. For whatever the particular issue, you have a whole new set of hoops to jump through just so that your child will thrive.

As I have readily admitted, I am quite possibly the world's pickiest adult. (MC's not too far behind me.) And as much as I have fun with the fact that everyone blames my children's eating habits on me and my example (often, I am even the first one to say it), I feel that I must take a moment to set the record straight. It's true that the list of foods I like is much shorter than the list of foods I don't like. However, that is because I've actually tried most of those other foods! I do try foods, I just don't like them. But I can't even get my kids to try anything new.

OK, so that's only partly true. I've never had a problem with Sassy (God bless her), and Howdy has really started to expand his menu and try new things. So that leaves (who else?) Bubba.


I told you that I'm making my kids eat whatever I've made for dinner or they don't eat. There are plenty of nights that Bubba just won't eat. And he's okay with that. But we're attempting to get him used to at least trying something. They say you may have to present a new food to a child a minimum of 10 times before they will eat it. For kids who have more severe problems, you may actually have to start with them tolerating being in the same room as certain foods. Luckily it's not that bad here.

One of the things I have never been able to get Bubba to eat is mashed potatoes. I'm convinced it's just a texture thing. He also won't eat scrambled eggs, rice, pudding, Jell-O or applesauce. But I LOVE mashed potatoes so we have them alot. One night at dinner I did force him to eat one tiny bite. After much screaming and crying he finally took a small bite. He made horrible, gagging faces while it was in his mouth. Instead of being able to swallow it down quickly, he threw up all over his dinner plate. I gave up on mashed potatoes.

But it's come up again and this time I have the help of a professional. In Bubba's weekly "playgroup" (that's code for speech with another
Autistic boy), the therapist has started working with the boys on getting past some of these food/texture issues. We are starting with...mashed potatoes. Or, as Bubba calls them, "smashed potatoes". So we went to playgroup and the boys got to make their own instant potatoes. Then what they do is go little by little to work up to taking a bite.

Here's how it goes. First, they have to touch the potatoes to their tongue. That's it. No tasting, eating or swallowing involved. For each time that they do it, they cross off a box on their chart. When they do it 4 times, they are rewarded with a small piece of chocolate. Then they have to lick it. Again, they do that 4 times and are rewarded with chocolate. Next, they actually have to leave a little piece of it on their tongues and swallow it. After that, they have to take a bite and swallow it. Bubba struggled with it, and made those faces again but he actually made it through and even took his "bite". He did it. It was very exciting to see him eat something that he's always had such a problem with. We are very proud of him.

Bubba is still not sold on smashed potatoes. We will have to keep working on this food, and eventually it will get replaced with another one. It's very tedious, frustrating and time-consuming. However, it's worth it if it makes eating and dinner time any better.

I want you to remember something when you're around any Autistic children. If you get frustrated at their behavior or wonder why no one's "worked with them" to stop a bad habit, they've probably been working on it for months, if not years. It is a very sloooow process. And for every behavior you seem to get control of, another new one will take it's place. It's so rewarding to see my son be able to turn around some of those "uncontrollable" behaviors. But there's never time to celebrate long before a new challenge demands my time, patience and microscopic baby steps.

Tell me again why I'm so tired all the time?

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