So we are back to eating three to four things that do not provoke a visceral reaction (like flying objects). It is frustrating. We went through therapy for this food aversion before. Every morning we drove an hour to therapy to be there by 8 am. We sat through therapy. We then drove our boy to school. We then went to work. We did this every day for three weeks. The therapy was premised on the theory that this "habit" – selective eating – is behavioral. So, we would sit there until Daniel ate everything that was asked of him. Preferred items/activities were used to leverage Daniel’s intake of non-preferred items. It was interesting, but, to be honest, it made us uncomfortable to watch. We didn't like forcing food intake. But it didn't matter much because our boy quickly learned that if he did what was asked, his time there would be shorter. So, after just a few sessions...we'd go through this whole morning routine only to be in therapy for 15-20 minutes. Yet the issues persisted in every other environment. As a result, we decided to forgo the next step of therapy at this particular location. It just felt like we were standing still and not progressing and if there is anything we have learned...it is that the parent instinct is real. So we took some of the things we picked up from the experience (that worked for our boy) and implemented them at home. Things improved for a period of time. Our boy continued to be selective, but he ate.
The thing with autism, or any disability really, is that it is always evolving. You find a support for one thing and another thing pops up. You think that you have tackled an obstacle and the issue resurfaces...and sometimes they resurface with a vengeance. This time around with food, our boy has found more self-awareness - and his sense of independence is growing. So, we hear a lot of “I don't have to eat it,” or “I don't want to,”, or “I am in control of myself.” He may be scripting, or picking up these phrases from other kids, but the message is clear. Our boy is standing his ground more and we have less power as parents to be the enforcers. The power struggle is real. He has dug his heels in and the crying and tantrum-like behavior persists at each meal...unless one of his four preferred items is present...but it is hard to serve rice for breakfast!
This time around we feel more urgency to fix this. Our boy needs food to grow, just like any child. With the seizure meds, food is even more essential. But underlying all that is the autism. With autism there is rigidity and the longer we allow him to eat just four things, the harder it will be to break the habit.
So, we feel like we are back to square one with an issue we have tackled before. We are researching other options and engaging all of his therapists and teachers to provide support and guidance in the meantime. Last night was particularly rough. I tried to be the enforcer and have Daniel eat what was in front of him. It led to behaviors we have not seen in years. The experience (screaming, crying, throwing things) lasted two hours and it left me feeling very defeated. I needed a break and I mindlessly began looking through some of the photos on my phone. I came upon one that made me smile. A family photo in front of the Capitol in D.C. We took a family trip there recently and our boy endured a tour and a meal out that day. He did this all without incident...AND we had fun. Meaning...we didn't just try to get through the experience. We enjoyed the experience. The picture made me smile because I felt grateful that we could have that fun experience as a family. A few years back, I am not sure if we could.
So, the picture reaffirmed my desire to work on having a glass half full perspective, regardless of the bumps in the road...and regardless of how may bumps we encounter. Our boy deserves that as does our family. So we are currently in intermission and will be starting mom/dad versus food Part II. The second half is always better than the first, right? Right.