It’s the little things in life. Sunshine after 3 days straight of rain. Snuggling with my girls while we watch their favorite movie and munch on some popcorn. Brand new tires on my 04′ Corolla (The old ones served us well for 7.5 years.). A phone call from my sister over in Afghanistan. Watching my husband fold laundry and wash the dishes (Believe me he knows how much he’s appreciated :)).
For us, eating and interacting with food has become a MAJOR part of life. Yet each step of the food ladder is minuscule. But…without the baby steps, we wouldn’t be celebrating the small successes that we have noticed over the last 13 months. B went from eating about three foods consistently at four years old to looking at, touching, smelling, and even chewing peanuts! She’ll drink fruit smoothies. Eat fish sticks, devour popcorn, snake taste (using the tip of her tongue) the outside of a grape tomato. Last week at food school, she touched and smelled grilled chicken!!! This is the same little girl who used to gag and cry over grilled chicken anywhere near her plate.
Without all of the baby steps and sensory activities we’ve used to prep her, her success would be much more limited. I look back and see how far we’ve come. She may not eat macaroni and cheese or pizza, but she’s slowly building her confidence. She’s recognizing that food doesn’t have to be scary all the time. She’s realizing that it can be fun to cook and play with food.
I think one of the biggest reasons she’s made such gains is because of the overall mantra of her “food school” therapy. She isn’t expected to interact, play with, or eat foods unless SHE’S physically and emotionally ready. Forcing her to eat, made her body jump into immediate fight/flight mode. She would simply panic and there was no reasoning/rationalizing with her. She started to see food as a threat. Physically and emotionally. Even now we keep telling her, “You can learn about this food later; when you’re body’s ready.”
The other aspect of her overall success is combining sensory activities/strategies with food therapy. She jumps in her hula hoop to warm her body up. She bounces on her hoppity hop before she comes to the table. She practices blowing exercises to warm up her mouth before she eats. She can wear her noise-cancelling headphones when noise becomes too overwhelming at the table. I’m even thinking of adding a Thera-band to the bottom of her chair to keep her body busy while she’s eating (Check out the following OT blog for a description and picture of what this looks like http://therapyfunzone.com/blog/2010/11/letting-feet-stay-busy/).
We also started a heart incentive chart with her. She knows that this is simply a positive chart where we record when she’s learned something new (or completed a new step) about a certain food. The steps are simple. First, is looking at the food with our eyes and describing it. Second is touching it with hand/fingers. Third, is smelling. Fourth is snake tasting (w/ front of tongue). Fifth is touching it to teeth. Sixth is putting it in mouth and spitting out. Seventh is chewing and spitting it out. Eighth is chewing and swallowing. As you can see there are many steps to learning about a new food. Each time she completes one of these steps ON HER OWN, she gets a heart drawn on her chart. Right now she’s working towards a movie goal with her Godmama 🙂
It’s so important that we celebrate the little things with our sensory kiddos. It’s so easy to get lost in the never-ending world of melt-downs, obsessive type behaviors, guilt, frustrations, food, and therapies; but we need to remind ourselves that without the teeny, tiny, baby steps…we’d never take a step back and see the big picture. The picture that showcases that they are making gains; however small. For kids w/ sensory challenges these steps are HUGE, MAJOR accomplishments. Sweet successes!