Our son was really receptive to his time at Horizons, but he fought us on doing the exercises at home. I mentioned this in front of him to his therapist who calmly and thoroughly explained why it was so important for his body to heal and strengthen by doing the exercises. From that point on, he never again made a fuss about doing them (despite that I had basically told him the same thing…but it helps to hear it from someone other than Mommy, sometimes).
It was fun watching how soothed he felt by the exercises. He loved getting to play on that awesome equipment. He would say the cutest and funniest things while at the table doing oral motor exercises. And then came our time in the kitchen…
He was frequently trying to change the subject. He tolerated things being put on his plate, but he wasn’t trying most of the food, even if it was something he should have liked. After a while, the therapist suggested that she try being in there with him alone. We could watch through the window from a sitting area. We observed the same sorts of things–him trying to avoid participating in the activity at hand and wanting to get off topic with his subject matter of preference.
Feeling like he was never going to progress, I would now and then quietly voice my concerns to the therapist behind my son’s back. She would remind me of something he had done, like tapping a certain food to his teeth or holding it in his lips. She refused to believe that he wasn’t making progress, but knew that the steps were small and the progress slow. That’s basically where we left off just before Thanksgiving, at the end of our 6-month contract.
In the beginning, we were expected to only feed him foods that he was already ok with. We had to teach him to trust us that meal time was safe and he was not going to be asked to try something “new”. For the first week or two, I repeatedly served the same sorts of foods so that the atmosphere would be low-key and we could reprogram his attitude towards meals.
After a while, I knew that I needed to get back to putting varied meals on the table for my family. Though nothing other than familiar foods were put on his plate, the fact that other smelly or icky looking things were on the table made him quickly start to panic. I remember that one time I pulled him in my lap in the next room (he had been kicking the wall and shouting threats at us) and I put my laptop on top of his lap and started typing a story entitled, “What to do when something on the table is stinky.” I was seriously trying to use the story to help him problem solve, but he found the title funny and it deflected his stress and anger. We printed the story and brought it to the table to share with the rest of the family. We put a cover over the food that had been upsetting him, and from that point on we’ve never had another major tantrum over a food. If it seemed like it was bothering him, I’d quickly suggest that we cover it or block his view with a cereal box. I was glad that the whole family could sit through a meal together. It was a baby step.
In the meanwhile, I knew that it seemed really hypocritical to our other two kids to let their brother eat whatever he wanted (more or less) and expect them to try what I’d prepared. We’d explain that their brother was going to Horizons for help with his feeding, and that we were doing what we were told was best for him for now, but that we knew how important it was for their bodies to get lots of nutrients and that we had to make sure they got those nutrients. Our oldest understood and even our youngest did, a little. He may be younger than his brother, but his eyes are more open to how the world works, in some ways. He can be more rational, for sure.
Still, it slows their progress, seeing him get to have pizza toast or tortilla pizza or peanut butter crackers instead of trying the new dish Mommy fixed. It creates hindering resentment, to some degree. We just wake up to each new day, ask for God’s guidance, grace, and strength, and we beg for his forgiveness. We pray that He grants our son enough days with these limited amount of nutrients to see a day when he’s capable of consuming any kind of food. We dream of the day that he’ll realize that he can eat something that he doesn’t care for the taste of and still be ok. I don’t know when it will happen, but I know that God has the power to make it happen. May He give me patience and fortitude, in the meanwhile!