It has been two weeks, and we’re just starting week 3, since I implemented our Feeding Therapy plan. Some of it has been “make it up as we go along” but I’m starting to feel more confident in my execution of this plan and so far I’m pleased with the results.
We started out with homemade chicken nuggets using ground chicken breaded with almond flour (grain free, gluten free), and also baby carrot sticks. For the first few days I simply placed these items on a plate in-between their dinner plates (they sit opposite each other at a small table). They earned two mini cupcakes or, later, two chocolate chip cookies for doing this. They soon both requested that we move up a level so they could earn an extra dessert that night. That meant that they had to have the foods on their plate, along with their regular dinner. The next night they had to do at least this to earn their two items – when they move up a step it becomes the minimal requirement for subsequent nights. This is to prevent having to add a dessert item to each step (there are many!) and it provides incentive to move further ahead when they are ready.
The results so far? After two weeks Mr. Boo is taking a bite of baby carrot and holding it in his mouth for five seconds before spitting it out into a small bowl provided for that purpose. He is also taking a small bite of chicken nugget, chewing and swallowing it. Miss Em, who is more affected by smell than texture, just this evening felt ready to move up a step. She earned two extra cookies by first holding a baby carrot up to her nose and smelling it, and then by placing a chicken nugget partially in her mouth (no biting yet). Not only is this definite progress for them, but they are doing it willingly! And they seem proud of themselves when they are able to move up a step.
I am really happy with how this is going so far. The lure of the dessert does seem to be serving as an excellent indicator of readiness. This is a relief because I don’t trust myself to guess right on that every single time. I was worried that they might hold back because they simply don’t want to progress, but if I pushed them and they truly weren’t ready it would backfire. Well, when my children refuse an extra cookie for something as apparently “easy” as sniffing a baby carrot…I know they aren’t ready! Yet they are steadily progressing and for that I am very grateful.
I checked in with our Occupational Therapist last week and she said to be prepared for some steps taking a long time. She said it can take up to 20 times of smelling or tasting something for these kids to acclimate to the item. I’m glad she reminded me that Miss Em, especially, is challenged because of her overactive sense of smell. This is why when, today, she asked if she could earn an extra cookie by smelling the carrot I agreed. Mr. Boo didn’t need to take that step – for him it is more about texture I think.
There have been some downsides. It has added considerably to my already busy workload in the kitchen. Now I not only have to co-ordinate their dinners to be ready at the same time (they rarely eat the same thing) but I have to add the chicken nuggets, too (thankfully the carrots just come right out of the bag). I’ve made do by prepping and freezing some batches, but it’s still a lot of work, especially when I then have to make my own dinner too.
What’s even harder, though, is the personal cost of having dessert in the house when I struggle with carb addiction. I had weaned myself off carbs last year after switching to paleo-type low-carb eating. But over Thanksgiving and Christmas I started indulging in carbs and next thing I knew I was hooked again and gained over 10 lbs. I was just starting my own New Year’s resolution of weaning myself off sugar when I implemented this feeding therapy plan. I had already lost some of the weight from the holidays but I have managed to gain it back over the last couple of weeks. It’s just too hard for me having that stuff at hand. So I’m struggling with how to deal with this, yet feeling that I’d rather stay 10 lbs overweight if it means my kids might have a chance at eating a normal, healthy range of foods.
In the meantime, I have cause to celebrate our successes..my children have carrots on their plates!! I’m pretty happy about that, and even if this program takes years I will celebrate each and every step. Maybe one day I will hear shouts of “hooray” when offering something other than pizza for dinner.