Picky? Puhleez!

This will probably be my 2nd biggest blog post to date. It’s going to offend some, but hopefully educate others. This post is long overdue, but especially needed in the “picky eating” community. Tread with caution. This post will consist of my own words, but it’s the thoughts and overall experiences of my 7 year old daughter, B, and may other children like her who have challenges eating everyday foods. I will also be standing up for the “picky” eater parents who struggle with their own issues regarding this topic. Stepping into my big girl panties…

Picky eater. That word offends me beyond belief. I know it’s all over the internet. Many books, articles, and blogs have been written on the topic. Yet, picky eating doesn’t even begin to describe what my daughter and many other children like her deal with on a daily basis. It goes WAY beyond picky eating. What these children deal with, is almost a phobic reaction/response in the way their bodies deal with food.

B is finally old enough to explain, in limited words, how the whole eating experience impacts her. When a food is new, she can’t physically and emotionally handle how it looks and smells. Taste is a whole different level. If/When people push her to try a new food (keep in mind, we haven’t done this for YEARS), she explains that her body freaks out. She would cry and want to run away (her own words). She starts to hyperventilate and her body goes into fight or flight mode.

We did try the Sensory Oral Sequencing (SOS) Approach when she was younger, and while the program did definitely help her learn to experience and accept new foods without the initial fear reaction, B started putting up emotional road blocks after a few years. We’ve since started trying the Division of Responsibility Method (DOR).

How can I tell the difference between picky and extreme? It helps that B has a younger sister. Her sister is what I would describe as a finicky eater. Unlike B, C ate all kinds of foods as a baby. She ate meat, sandwiches, fruit, veggies, yogurt. All kinds of foods. Around 3, she became more selective about what she would eat; however, she is still a major carnivore. She will eat sausage, hamburgers, brats, hot dogs, turkey pepperoni. She’s even tried and liked grilled chicken breast with a side of ketchup! Meat is a texture that is very difficult for selective eaters to tolerate. It’s can be chewy, tough, fatty, grizzly. C’s never had an issue with this.

The other major difference is that C will try new foods when other kids around her are trying something. This is a HUGE difference between “picky” eaters and kids like B. B was in daycare at the age of 2, and the teachers would comment all the time on how she would NEVER try something just because the other kids did. C when comfortable (and not pressured) will eat many things. One of her newest experiences at snack time was trying applesauce in a pouch.

So, after stepping on my soapbox about B’s experience vs. her sister’s experiences what words do I used to describe her eating habits? I prefer the term selective eater. She is very particular about the foods she accepts. Most of these kids are. For B, foods are dry and crunchy in texture. Rarely wet and chewy. Is it a matter of semantics? Maybe, but when selective eaters, like B, are judged and lumped into the “picky” eater category it makes my blood boil. There’s a definite difference. Keep that in mind as the holiday’s approach. Using the word “picky” eater around mom’s of kids with selective eaters will send us through the roof. Only, we’ll grit out teeth and put on our smile simply so we won’t make a scene at the dinner table ūüôā

Now, here’s where I’m REALLY going to step on some toes. The thing most parents of selective eaters cannot STAND is reading Facebook post after Facebook post and article after article about “healthy” eating.

If your child is considered failure to thrive or only eats 3 foods TOTAL as an infant/toddler, we couldn’t care LESS what kind of foods they are. Well, really we probably wish they are super healthy fruits and veggies, but let’s be real here….they’re freaking eating! They tried a new food! They touched it! They smelled it! They asked to take a bite! The truth is…we celebrate any and all food successes. That includes McDonald’s french fries ya’ll! That includes the time my daughter ate and liked a processed oatmeal cookie from the grocery store.

Believe me, during SOS feeding therapy, we exposed her to many healthy food options. Carrots, celery, yogurt…and because they have a wet or ribbed texture she couldn’t even attempt to adopt them into her everyday diet. So forgive me if you cringe at the fact that my daughter LOVES Ritz crackers with peanut butter and chips and homemade sour cream dip for dinner.

As parents, we want our children to ENJOY their eating experience as a whole. After all, our society is all about social eating. If we can’t accept what they are willing to eat, how are they ever going to feel confident enough to go out to a restaurant and enjoy time with their friends and family. Who cares if all B will ever eat when she goes out to restaurant is a plate of french fries? I certainly won’t. I’d much rather she be a part of our family laughing and sharing stories at the table in a setting we all enjoy than expecting her to eat a plate of pasta (she’s never tried a noodle in her life).

Again, as the holiday approaches, think twice before offering advice or commenting on the type of foods so and so brought for their kids. We know what we’re feeding them. We know 99% of the time it’s not “healthy” or organic and that it’s probably genetically modified. We also know that it took our child 3 years to even lick that item, or touch it with their fingers. We celebrate the fact that they are eating SOMETHING!

Give parents a break and stop judging. Tis the season of thankfulness and good will toward men. Please remember that when you’re visiting families who have kids with selective eating disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism, or any other special needs.

**For anyone who has a selective eater here’s the goal of the DOR method courtesy of Skye, author of “Mealtime Hostage.”

“The goal here is not to teach your child to eat a wide variety of foods. The goal is to teach your child to enjoy eating. Once your child enjoys eating, they will naturally explore different foods from different food groups all on their own and in their own time.”

You can check out Skye’s amazing blog at¬†http://mealtimehostage.com/ and also on her Facebook page:¬†https://www.facebook.com/MealtimeHostage for more information

Credit given to Ellyn Satter for the creation of The Division of Responsibility Program http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/

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The Clothing Wars

I’d like to think I understand B’s extreme sensory challenges when it comes to how clothing feels. Then I have mornings like this morning…and realize I am extremely intolerable and like every other parent out there just want her to wear what I pick out.

I admit it. I lose my cool over this issue way more often then I should. After all, I refuse to wear a shirt that fits too snug or a sweater that’s too itchy. How’s that any different for B?

This morning B didn’t want to wear the shirt I picked out. I had an immature mommy moment. I replied with, “Fine. Pick out what you want to wear from now on.” Only it wasn’t what I said. I used the “tone.” You know what tone I’m talking about. The one I used, but in that extremely mad and irritated voice.

For kids with sensory processing disorder, tone and inflection in our voices can really stress them out. Many times, they are more sensitive to EVERYTHING and that definitely includes our tone of voice. I failed to remember that as I growled out what I said. Her tears and the sobs followed. Honestly, the way I reacted, I can’t blame her.

The shirt she wanted to wear is this bright, totally adorable owl shirt that we bought when school first started. See the featured image of this post. At the time I bought it, I failed to recognize how much it would shrink (Darn you China). We bought it in a size 7. My bad! She tried it on today and when she lifted up her arms it showed her belly. She hates when shirts do that. She feels they are immediately too small when that happens. Like all of us that no longer fit into our favorite pair of jeans, she was mad. She whipped the shirt over her head and threw it onto the floor. More sobbing ensued.

About ten minutes later I was able to ask her what she was really upset about. See, most kids with sensory processing disorder cannot articulate how they are feeling in the moment. When you ask them, they will either ignore you completely or shout out, “I don’t know!” When she was able to rationalize, she explained that she just loves this shirt and now it doesn’t fit her anymore. That and she was just having a really bad morning.

So what does every parent do when their child’s heart is broken over something? You try to replace it. Unfortunately, the shirt is now on clearance and only comes in a size 4/5. The good news…she picked out a new shirt (That I seriously can’t stand, but I pick my battles), in a size 8, online. Oh, and even though we couldn’t get the owl shirt in her size…we did manage to find the owl shirt as a pajama set!!! I will say that just made her morning ūüôāWinter deer Owl PJ's

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Mommy Melt-down Moments

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I’ve taken a long hiatus from blogging. Too long. The good news is most days have been pretty awesome, but then there’s those days that take us to the brink of our own mommy melt-down. The “Calgon take me away” moment. The “I can’t wait until my kiddos are in bed so I can unwind with a giant glass of wine and watch brainless, tacky t.v shows” moments. Tonight is one of those moments.

B’s been having a VERY difficult time relating to her sister lately. There are 2.5 years between her and her little sister. Growing up, the two of them have always been the best of friends. They play really well, confide in each other, and share in one another’s successes. Within the last 6¬†months or so, B’s overall tolerance for her sister has changed.

Don’t get me wrong. B loves her sister with a fierce protectiveness. However, the last six months she’s become “bothered” by her sister’s constant attention. C is her sister’s shadow. She loves B with complete and total devotion. She wants to do everything with her. I guess most “oldest” siblings feel the smother effect and go a-wall from time to time?

The biggest issue I have is the way she deals with it. She talks down to her sister quite often. She complains anytime she has to play longer than 10 minutes with her. She sulks quite often. She doesn’t want to share her toys with her (mind you she’s 7 and knows how to share). She comments how C gets everything and because she’s in school she gets nothing. She’s gone from being the loving, happy-go-lucky big sister to a sulky, bored, whiny sibling.

Tonight I tried to talk to her about it, and she went into melt-down mode. Her emotions are so sensitive and it’s hard to know if that’s just her old-soul personality, or if her sensory system causes creates a flight response. She always has such a difficult time coming back down and calming herself. I have to hold her, hug her tightly, and rock her gently for 20+ minutes until she can settle.

The most frustrating part for me is that when I asked her why she’s acting out this way (towards her sister and her sourly attitude) she can’t give me an answer. When I ask her if her body is okay in relation to her sensory issues, she says, “No. Not really.” When I ask her what we can do to help her, she still can’t articulate what she needs and that bothers me. I want her to be able to advocate her needs as she goes through school. I want her to be able to articulate her needs and challenges. When does that change?

I keep wondering if she needs to see a counselor to talk through her emotional struggles and challenges, but I don’t want her to have a complex as she gets older.¬†The complex¬†where she sees something “wrong” with the way God created her. We love her 100% for the way she is, but that doesn’t mean living in this world isn’t difficult for her. Maybe this is just normal sibling rivalry, and I’m reading more into it than I need too? If anyone has an insight or feedback I’m all ears. To my readers: thanks for sticking around after my blogging break. I appreciate each and every one of you navigating along with me¬†while dealing with¬†your own parenting journeys.

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The Back-to-School Blues

School’s back in session. “How’s it going for B?” you ask. “I underestimated the back-to-school blues and challenges.” I reply.

Most of us parents cannot wait for back to school. Structure, routine, and normalcy. Who wouldn’t want that? What we sometimes forget is how challenging it can be for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder. Transitions, last-minute changes to the routine, new clothing to get used to, social awkwardness, fear of failure (aka the need for perfection), weather drill chaos, assembly noises…the list goes on and on.

For kids with SPD, these everyday experiences¬†lead to emotional meltdowns. Specifically at home. The hard part about that is, a lot of the time, our kids hold it together at school. Especially when given the proper sensory tools to get through their day. An exercise ball? Yes, please. A wiggle cushion? You bet! Noise cancelling headphones? Absolutely. Snack/lunch sent from home? Of course! Gum, chewelry, or the Ark Grabber? Couldn’t go without.

You see, when given the proper tools our kiddos can hold it together much better at school. That combined with the emotional need to “fit in” with their peers…makes¬† some administrators and school staff question if our children really have the sensory challenges we see at home. I can honestly say I’ve thought, more than once, about bringing out the video camera. One time I actually did. Mostly to prove to myself that I wasn’t crazy. She¬†absolutely did have full on meltdowns at home.

That being said, we’ve been dealing with a lot more emotional stress at home. “B” is starting to recognize that her body responds differently from others. She also realizes that she needs specific tools (like her therapy brush http://wp.me/p1Wc6a-N) to help her get through her day. So do her peers. They think they’re being helpful by reminding her, but she’s annoyed that they constantly check to make sure it’s been done.

She realizes that her feelings/challenges about food make her different from others. She’s starting to vocalize it too. Yesterday at breakfast, she became very upset that her sister is able to eat the same cereal over and over (her sister is a picky eater, but not a selective eater). I explained that she doesn’t get sick of eating the same thing over and over. B knows she does. She still considers this very unfair and it leads to meltdowns. She knows smells and appearances of foods do not¬†bother others like it does her. She also knows she wants to try new foods, but just can’t bring her body to physically go through with it.

This morning she could FINALLY change her newly pierced earrings. She was so excited! Until I tried to pull off the back of steel. She is extremely sensitive to pain and that stopped that idea right there in its tracks. It also caused her plenty of emotional distress since she wanted to wear her new purple earrings from Great Grandma super badly.

Her sister’s crying bothers her again. Even the headphones aren’t helping as much as she wants them to. Fear of bugs and bad weather is causing trouble sleeping. She wakes up with nightmares at least 2-3 times per week.

We think OT might need to come back into play on a weekly basis again. Her therapist warned us her emotional stress might escalate after school began. She mentioned that it happens to a lot of kids with SPD. The expectation put on them in the school hours leads to a lot of meltdowns at home. At home they are comfortable and loved unconditionally. It’s their safe place to release.

B has been getting a lot of extra deep squeezes lately. That along with jumping rope, head stands, jumping on the trampoline, taekwondo, and swinging seem to be her sensory activities of choice right now.

So, in honor of Sensory Awareness Month (October)…please remember that just because you don’t always see a child with physical challenges doesn’t mean that our kids aren’t struggling. They are holding it together at least 7.5-8 hours per day. That’s some pretty awesome self-control. Keep in mind that parents aren’t making these things up. We aren’t looking for sympathy. Simply said…a little kindness and understanding go a long way ūüôā

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Respect the Rules

Everyone knows that kiddos with sensory¬†processing disorder¬†live by rules and routine. As a parent of a kiddo with sensory challenges,¬†you¬†learn to always respect that. If you can’t respect that, than¬†you warn them with PLENTY of advance notice. Every once in while though, even though you know what you should and should not do, you either forget or test the boundaries simply because¬†you like¬†to torture yourself¬†ūüėČ

I made the HUGE mistake of pushing B too far Tuesday night. Everyone knows about B’s eating issues. This is one¬†aspect I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I do not mess with. So then…what the heck was I thinking?

We’ve been very relaxed at meal times over the entire summer. No pressure, no intricate food discussions, no cooking projects. Low and behold, no meltdowns.

I decided to eat a fresh peach for dinner that night. After devouring the delicious summer fruit, I asked C and B if they’d ever seen the pit of a peach. I cleaned it off and C touched it. She felt how hard it was. B was immediately¬†uncomfortable.¬†I mentioned that she didn’t have to touch it or look at it. She did smell it, but didn’t really want to.¬†I’m almost positive she did it for me. I then went on to say that maybe in a few days we could “learn” more¬†about it.

Her initial response was a very emphatic, “I don’t want to touch it. I don’t want to look at it either.” I reminded her she didn’t have to do anything until she was ready. The entire scene went spiraling out of control.¬†She turned into a crying mess. “I don’t want to ever learn about it.” Then, “I’m just not ready to learn about any new foods!” At this point I realized I went to far, but I couldn’t undo what had already been done. “I don’t want to cook new foods either!” Complete the¬†scene with a¬†sobbing, hyperventilating 6.5 year old.

I know no parent is perfect. I know I’m going to trip up and make mistakes.¬†However, this¬†eating thing is my biggest downfall. My greatest challenge. I think I’m encouraging her.¬†That I’m broadening her horizons. Deep down I know that what I see as encouragement…she sees as pressure and control.

I don’t really have a point to my post other than that I realize I need to let go and accept who she is. I need to accept how she eats and even what she eats. I need to understand her sensory challenges and how they impede her specific food choices. I need to stop pushing and analyzing. Instead, I need to show her my unconditional love and support. Tomorrow’s another day, and today I must respect¬†her rules.

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Sensory Delight and Sensory Flight

It’s been way too long since my last post. I apologize to my followers, but honestly since January 2013 things have been going great. Meltdowns were almost non-existent. B’s sensory challenges were easily managed. Eating was what it was. She wasn’t eating a bunch of new foods, but every once in a while she would try a new food. Even her OT¬†said she was doing extremely well. Therefore, nothing new to report ūüôā

Then summer happens. New activities, weather changes, vacations, barbecues, spur of the moment trips to anywhere…I’m sure you catch my drift.

Summer for B was one of the best times to focus on her sensory needs. She enrolled in a summer school arts and crafts program. Despite all of the different texture mediums (Paper Mache for example) she absolutely LOVED the class.

She started piano lessons. My husband’s cousin, who plays the piano beautifully, tutored B over the summer.¬†B struggled in the beginning (learning the notes and remembering where they were on the piano), but given time and practice she’s learned to love playing the music.

The biggest sensory investment we made this summer…was Taekwondo. We had heard from so many different people how much Taekwondo helped them build their confidence, encourage individual success, not to mention the physical awesomeness that helps many kids with sensory challenges. I reached out to my OT friend Miss Angie¬†Voss (Angie Voss’ Website)¬†who described specifically why Taekwondo¬†could be a great sport for our kids. Here was her response: “Taekwondo¬†provides a significant amount of proprioception via joint traction and compression as well as the core strength needed to maintain the different positions. Proprioceptive¬†input is also achieved through all of the different movement patterns, static and dynamic. The front kicks and punches provide a powerful dose of¬† joint traction to all of the joints of the arms and legs, as well as the body requiring to engage almost every muscle of the body.¬† Proprioception is very calming, regulating, and organizing for the brain. Taekwondo also provides vestibular input via balance and constant shifting of posture and position, which is also regulating for the brain. From an environmental standpoint, Taekwondo is structured, typically not too chaotic, and organized. It’s also known for following a very specific routine and process at each session. This in itself can be very regulating and soothing for our sensory kiddos.”

I knew there was a reason why B absolutely LOVES going. She¬†is getting so many of her sensory needs met in a simple 45 minute session. She especially enjoys working on her kicks, blocks, and punches. Because of the sensory input she receives from her Taekwondo class (in addition to her at home sensory diet), we’ve decided to scale back her OT sessions to only once a month.

Vacation, on the other hand, was a bit more challenging for B’s sensory system. In the grand scheme of things, I couldn’t blame her. We stayed at multiple different places (hotel, condo, and our Aunt’s vacation home). We ate out a lot! Mot of the time there was very little on the menu that she was willing/able to eat. We were in the humid, hot (but beautiful) sun almost everyday. We had no real set agenda, and I’m sure¬†it took a lot for her to go-with-the-flow.

Vacation successes: We went to IHOP for breakfast one morning. She loves pancakes but will only eat them with my cousin’s homemade blueberry syrup (it’s amazing). We didn’t have that with us, so I had to improvise. They had pancakes with banana slices (which she loves) and strawberry syrup (the kind they put on sundae’s). I told her she liked each of those things separately, and I was asking a lot for her to think about trying it. She decided she was willing to give it go. She tried it and LOVED it! Same with the waffle fries that they serve EVERYWHERE down south ūüôā She was finally willing to try them at one of the restaurants and thought they were great. She even said we could buy some frozen ones¬†for home!

She swam in salt water. A completely different sensory experience than your typical Midwest swimming pool. Salty, giant waves, sand sticking to every part of your body. She handled it like a champ.

Vacation hiccups: The spiders and bugs. Oh, the spider and bugs. They say everything is bigger in the south. It’s true. Needless to say, sleeping was a huge struggle for B. She would have trouble falling asleep, and wake up at least 3 times each night. She was petrified of the bugs (particularly spiders).

At the family reunion, our cousin’s boyfriend made a fantastic dinner spread. We had a meeting room in the hotel, and we couldn’t wait to eat. B, however, found the smell of the grilled meat to be beyond obnoxious. She refused to step in the room and was perfectly fine playing out in the hallway. That is, until we had to take a family reunion picture. Her little olfactory system couldn’t deal. She had a total breakdown. She cried and cried and wanted nothing to do with coming into that room for pictures, yet wanted to be in the picture. Thank goodness for my awesome mom who was willing to hug her, and give her possible suggestions. She also educated those who thought she was simply having a bratty tantrum. All while I stood there helpless. See, I had forgotten her Scentsy pig. She carries it with her when she’s around extremely unpleasant odors. I absolutely should have remembered the pig. She ended up taking a clementine with her and smelled that¬†during the pictures. I’m pretty sure the picture will document her overall feeling that night (clementine right in front of her face).

Now that we’re back from vacation, summer is officially coming to a close. That means school is starting. That means we must get back into B’s sensory routine. Morning jumps on the trampoline, playing hopscotch, swinging in her IKEA swing, hula hooping, jumping rope…the list is endless. I can tell we’ve been a little too lax this summer because she’s having more meltdowns at home and she’s having a lot of personal trouble with her younger sister. I’m hoping that once her sensory diet is back in full swing these things will help set her body and mind at ease.

If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. May each one of your children’s school year be a success. Remember to embrace the new, work through the challenges, and lean on the people you know will support you.

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A Word of Thanks

My parents are awesome! I really do have the best parents around. My mom doesn’t smother; yet she loves deeply. My dad encourages. They always go out of their way to let my siblings and I know how proud they are of us. How much they love us. They’re no different with their grandchildren. Their love overflows and it shows. It shows after a long weekend at Nana and Papa’s house. They reluctantly came home with us tonight. I know. Heartbreaking right? ūüôā

Actually, sometimes I take them for granted. I forget how much they love and support B and her sister. They really believe in this sensory stuff! I’ve come across so many people who don’t, and it’s refreshing to watch people who truly “get” it.

Tonight my husband and I went to pick the girls up from my parent’s house. B was acting pretty antsy; like she needed a really good dose of sensory input. My mom told me they worked on¬†a few sensory activities¬†downstairs this weekend. They have a giant family room that has nothing in it. Believe it or not, it was B’s perfect sensory playground.

We went downstairs. My mom had a giant exercise ball, and they tossed it around. B used her body to block it. She dribbled it like a basket ball. She rolled it and tried to jump in front of the ball to stop it. She rolled on the ball and tried to maintain her balance. She laid backwards over the ball, twisted her body, and tried to sit up without using her hands. She hopped from one end of the room to the other. The room was SO open, she could have done anything she wanted!

I was secretly touched that my mom would go out of her way to make sure B was getting the sensory input she needed while she was there. I never asked her. She’s just a terrific sensory Nana! She can read B’s signals as well as I can. Here’s another example. She knew that the kindergarten class in church was too new and scary for B; instead, she walked her and her sister to the children’s church where B stayed comfortably¬†the entire time!

And then there’s my dad! He’s gone back to law school and found his way into the world of Special Education. He’s jumped¬†head first into the world of IEP’s, advocacy, schools, and families of kids with special needs. He “gets” it too. He is always eager and willing to learn about kids with special abilities and challenges.

Mom and dad, if you’re reading this, I just have to say thank you for standing by us during all the challenges and uncertainty. For believing in us when we though no one else did. For accepting B for the awesome girl she is. For embracing¬†individuals with SPD and other challenges. You guys are amazing, and we love you with all of our hearts!

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