Long, long ago on a not to distant dining room a Bird sat crying in his chair facing the dreaded Pizza and begging,”No Momma, please no!”
Bird was close to 4 and a half and had NO desire to eat anything other than dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets, McDonald’s nuggets, fruit or peanut butter sandwiches. One day the store was out of his specific nugget and I lost it! I was DONE catering to this ridiculous lack of variety and unhealthy choice my son (NOT THE ADULT who should make the choices) was making! I went to culinary school at the Greenbriar damn it! you will eat Chicken Saltimboco and like it!
Back to our story….I hired a lovely woman with very little knowledge of how to help an intermediate learner (she was great with early learners) and proceeded with her to torture Bird with pizza for 2 straight hours. He sat in a chair while she said repeatedly,”Eat it. eat it, eat it” and he cried a lot…and I cried though in perceptively to him while assisting her in the Batan Death March of eating. He actually peed in his chair either because he had to go or as she said (possibly incorrectly as I can’t make myself pee unless I have to go) OR to escape the demand. We held him down and would not let me out of the seat and this because less about the food and more about control….I did not want to work on control so this was not a good thing and I felt awful with this technique. Because Bird is one of the sweetest guys in the world (this part just broke me) he asked the therapist once he was changed out of his damp clothes if she would play with him….such a forgiving guy. He is a little less forgiving now but that is a good things and something all people should learn so they are not victims of habitually mean or disrespectful people.
I picked pizza first because I wanted him to fit in at birthday parties and other events and that is a popular food…a well meaning idea but not the best for a feeding program where kid only eats one kind of protein. Still nobody gets it right every time and I am still learning the right ways to do so many things with regards to Bird it’s hard to believe I blog in the attempt to educate others…but I will go on with my delusion of intelligent ABA and good parenting.
The next day I wrote in his communication book to Mere (his FCPS Pre-School Teacher) that after 2 hours of waiting Bird out that we got him to take 3 bites of pizza. She called me later that day and told me of a program she was working at school called the stars program. This program was a feeding program where Bird was given 5 pieces of an non-preferred food on a plate next to a piece of paper with 5 numbers on it. It was explained in simple language (remember Bird has autism so complicated would not have worked) that he would get a star next to each number for each bite he took and than once each number had a star he would be finished trying the new food.
I invited the not so wonderful with more advanced learners back to try this program at home. We cut up the pizza in 5 small pieces (it was not a whole piece of pizza) wrote the numbers down and again explained the rules that he only had to take 5 bites. It worked like a dream! Bird happily took his bites for stars and got up from the table.
We used this technique for about 8 months and introduced everything from healthy to fried oreo in the attempt to break some of the rigidity and get him on board with just trying new things.
While some people do need to wait their kids out at the table if your child has control issues (Bird does) this might work for you. Only do what works and STOP if after 2-3 weeks or 4-5 (depends on the learner) of consistently making the attempt if it does not work. I know so many people with kids on diets, shots, h-bot with no proof of any change! If it works than prove it by removing or stopping for a 2 weeks to see if it works and if that is the case keep doing it! All our kids are different that is why it’s a spectrum.
Today Bird’s favorite food in Bulgogi aka Korean BBQ something we had to tell him to try. In February he tried and liked sushi (yep, raw fish not cooked and not veg), and nightly eats what ever culinary adventure I chose to make like Tilipia Tacos with rice tonight and I never fear taking him to a new country or new restaurant!
People really enjoy the company of those who are flexible. Food programs create more flexible people and for Bird a much healthier person as well.
As an aside my oldest son Herd (13 months older than Bird) was harder to work on feeding. He just hated vegetables and fruit with a passion. Each night for 2 years he would eat his fruit or veg in the kitchen over the trashcan so that he could throw up not in front of his sister. He has some control issues and some textual issues that representing fixed. He now mildly enjoys apples, romaine lettuce, carrots, asparagus, spinach and loves green beans (thank you Amy). He actually complimented me on dinner two days ago when I made sausage and black beans with spinach over cous cous which had lots of vegetables in it.
You can’t make your kids love everything but you can at least give them the chance to try it and find out. Most people believe if they don’t like it after the 6 presentation (that means eating some of it …not just putting it in front of them) they likely won’t like it at all.