Friday, December 22, 2006

the food thing

I figure it's time for me to post about some of the skeletons in our closet, lest anyone thinks our life is a walk in the park at this point in our Autism Remediation program. The two biggies for us are food, and potty training. I'll tackle the food thing tonight, and if I manage to survive talking about that, maybe I'll post about potty training at some point too. Though I may need a few weeks (or months) to recover from the trauma of talking about food....

The food thing. This has been one of our predominant nightmares throughout the past 3 years of our lives. Just the mention of dinner invitations, the words "snack provided" on program descriptions, or an offer to get together for lunch, causes me to have a moderate anxiety attack. I specifically arranged for our little homeschooling co-op to meet between mealtimes. I've avoided lunch dates for years.

The problem is that Jacob only eats a small handful of things. It has nothing to do with being "picky", or "spoiled", or any number of other suggestions (mostly implying poor mothering on my part) that people freely offer if the topic comes up (and trust me, I try to avoid the topic coming up at all costs!). It has to do with Sensory issues. And Autism. Though at this point it's more a Sensory thing and less an Autism thing, even though it's much easier to blame it on the Autism. I've found in general saying "he has Autism" gets us out of a lot of uncomfortable situations. Or rather, it did, back when he obviously had Autism. Now that it's more subtle to see, most folks just think I'm crazy. Maybe I am. I'm definitely food-phobic! I just wish that translated into ME avoiding eating so much, instead of the opposite (stress-eating, one of my personal demons).

So, anyway, here goes, I'm rolling up my sleeves and laying it all out on the table for anyone who cares to read this. Here's what Jacob currently will eat (and note, it has to be EXACTLY as described, down to brand and variety name, otherwise forget it):

Orange Juice (Tropicana pulp-free with calcium)
Bananas (though only if they are VERY ripe)
Apples (on occassion)
Froot Loops (dry, no milk)
Cheese and Crackers (Wispride Spreadable Cheddar and Red Oval Mini Stoned Wheat Thins)
Oatmeal Cookies (Archway, NO RAISINS)
Graham Crackers (Honey Maid regular variety)
Yellow Cake with Vanilla frosting (we can get away with a bit of variety with this one!)
McDonald's Double Cheeseburger, plain
McDonald's French Fries
McDonald's Vanilla Shake
McDonald's Vanilla Ice Cream (frozen yogurt)
Dunkin Donuts Old-Fashioned Donut
Rold Gold thin pretzels
Hershey's milk chocolate
M&Ms plain
Marshmallow Peeps (you know, the disgusting Easter candy)

He'll also nibble other kinds of chocolate, and some other kinds of cookies, and will claim to "like" them, but will refuse to actually eat them.

So, reading through the above list, you will see that there are only 3 things that we can possibly make a meal out of. So we serve those three things every day, and here they are:

Breakfast: Banana, Froot Loops, Orange juice

Lunch: McDonald's Double Cheeseburger, Fries and Shake

Dinner: Cheese and Crackers, Orange Juice

Now, we DO mix in a really good liquid vitamin and mineral supplement (Brainchild Nutritonal's Spectrum Support II) with his Orange Juice twice a day (it's supposed to be given 3 times a day, but we do the best we can, and we figure twice is better than not at all!). And we mix rice protein powder in his spreadable cheese. The lunch doesn't thrill me, but since the cheeseburger is the only animal protein the kid'll eat, I go with it anyway. If only they'd drop the trans fats at McDonald's I'd be a much happier mommy.

(Incidentally, on a side note, I was the sort of pre-mommy who swore I'd only ever feed my kids organic foods, and that McDonalds' food would never pass their lips. I've lived to eat those words -- pretty much literally. Honestly, I feel like McDonald's has kept my child alive, and I am eternally grateful for their existance. So don't judge me for feeding it on a regular basis to my kids....until you walk in my shoes....)

For desert after dinner, we have cake that we make from a Duncan Hines (or whatever) yellow cake mix, but we add 2 TBSP rice protein powder and 2 TBSP ground flax seed. So it has slightly more nutritional value than "just" cake. We tried mixing cod liver oil in the frosting, but we just couldn't get that to fly.

The other items on his "will eat" list we try to rotate as snacks depending on the day, with the exception of the McDonald's icecream, which we have pretty much every day after lunch (given that there's actually calcium in there and the boy won't drink milk).

As you've probably guessed, eating over someone else's house is pretty stressful for us. Well, for me. I don't think Jacob's really notices too much (unless he's teased about it -- someone commenting on his food is enough to make him refuse to eat anything, and has happened to him more than once), so long as I bring along enough food that he will eat. But it's meant that he's had pretzels or graham crackers for dinner if we've stayed on the spur of the moment, which opens up my parenting skills to all sorts of criticisms. It's a constant sore topic with me, and one of the few things that I'm quite sensitive to. And it continously amazes me that people don't seem to think I see them rolling their eyes, or hear the comments they whisper to each other in the kitchen while getting dessert or coffee.

At this point, I'd like to bring attention to something. One of the most touted myths that gets thrown at me on a fairly regular basis is "no kid will starve themselves to death". This is always said by some mother who "knows better" than I do, and thinks I can "fix" Jacob's food selectiveness by just not offering him anything but what *I* want him to eat. Well, I have a newsflash for people that hold to this theory. There are a small number of kids who WILL starve to death rather than try something new. I suspect most of them have ASD. My kid is one of them. I have proof.

So anyway, to wrap up this long-winded, defensive rant about my child's eating habits, I just want to say that I am trying VERY hard not to worry about the food thing. He's getting all the vitamins and minerals and protein he needs. He eats enough of a variety of food to not need tube-feeding (and oh boy, do I EVER feel for the folks who have had to go that route!). There is a sensory eating protocol that I do plan on trying with him next year, but right now my plate (HA! Bad pun!) is too full and I've got all I can handle, the thought of starting yet something else is too overwhelming at this point. So I'll continue to muddle along the way I am, fending off criticisms and dirty looks from people who don't understand and possibly don't want to.

But now you all understand. So thanks for reading this. And if anyone wants to get together for lunch at McDonald's, we're available!


At 9:02 PM, Anonymous diane said...

Amen! Your sons are thriving! Cheers to you and Merry Christmas. Sincerely, Diane

At 11:55 PM, Anonymous Another Mom said...

Been lurking on your blog awhile and have really enjoyed reading. Couldn't resist commenting on the food thing as I certainly feel your pain.

Here's what my daughter will eat:

Waffle fries from Chick a Fila (sometimes Wendys)
Peanut butter on Whole Wheat Bunny Crackers
Peanut butter on graham crackers
Cream cheese on wheat crackers
(notice a cracker theme?)
White spinach cheese pizza (from one local pizza place)
Pita chips
Vegan Sweet Potato Muffins with cream cheese
M & M's
Dark chocolate
Dried mango - Just Fruits brand
Dried strawberry - " "
Refried beans on tortilla chips
One beverage only - water - and it must be really cold

And, we've worked really, really hard to get this many. My daughter is adopted and when she came home at 17 months, all she would eat/drink was formula in a cleft bottle.

We blame a few things: the cleft lip/palate and all the eating issues that come with that, the force feeding at the orphanage, and the autism/sensory issues.

So I feel, feel, feel your pain....and have had to endure the rolled eyes as well.

Best of luck in your journey down this particular trail - we've found a few strategies that work - glad to pass along if you'd think they'd be of use.

At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Befor you get to worried about potty training, because I was very frustrated with potty training. So I began researching potty training and a common theme seemed to be praise and positive reinforcement. I came across a website called We hung it in the kitchen and named the little boy on the front of the package, Bobby. My son could not wait to go to the potty so he could push the button, hear the praising message, and get his chocolate reward from, Bobby. It really got my son excited about using the potty himself and it was fun for him. Because he became so involved, potty training was easy. So give it a try.

At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Katie said...

Just wanted to let you know I totally feel for you! My 4 yo has a diet about as restricted as Jacob's- basically just infant cereal, peanut butter sandwiches, peanut butter crackers, bananas, soymilk, OJ, and occasionally watermelon or apples. He has recently started eating birthday cake and occasionally cookies (I'm sure I'm the only mom in America who jumped for joy when her kid actually begged for birthday cake!!)
We've had to get REALLY creative at nutrition- we use iron-fortified infant cereal, mix vitamins into his cereal, buy only calcium-fortified juices, make sandwiches on folic-acid enriched bread, etc. He's healthy and growing, so I think we're doing ok. I do get a lot of flak about my son's diet from others, along with the same suggestions from well-meaning parents, like "Just don't offer him anything else", and "Quit giving in to his demands" and "He won't starve himself" etc. Other people who haven't been in our shoes just don't get it and I'm glad you don't let them get to you. Sounds like he's doing fabulously well overall, so if you ask me, a restricted diet is a small problem at this point compared to the major issues you've surmounted so far and continue to work on. Thanks so much for sharing!

At 6:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I know this is quite an old thread on the food issue, but I have been reading all of your previous year's worth of lovely RDI details the last two days. I am amazed at the progress your son has made and due to your suggestions will proceed with RDI and Sensory Integration. I want a six year old who is able to play with a four year old. I currently have a four year old and he is somewhat behind, having refused to let us do some stage 1 work when he was little (i.e. any row row the boat type songs etc). Thus I am saying your thread has been fabulous and I much appreciate the detail that you have put into your posts. Now to this particular food topic. Eventhough, it never get's formally mentioned does this mean a child can pass the stages eventhough they are still very strict and unwavering in their food choices? My child is not that restrictive, but rather does not like things too mushy (bananas, avocadoes) or too acidy (oranges,kiwi,..) or too..... This gives me great hope in actually pulling RDI off if I don't have to try and get him to do weird things with his food, or did you actually played variation games with the foods he does willingly eat?

Cheers Heike.

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Harvest Mom said...

Heike, I really believe that Jacob's food issues are sensory, not due to Autistic inflexibility. In fact, he's about the most flexible kid on the planet now, but he's still got issues with food. Of course, we've not pushed it too much either -- I have the luxury of having him on a great vitamin/mineral supplement, and he gets quite a balanced diet, just limited in variety. So I'm choosing not to worry about it or put too much effort into it. He IS much more willing to try new things now, he just finds most new tastes overwhelming. But on the scale of how far he's come, this is such a LITTLE thing, and I have the confidence that as he gets older, he'll get more adventurous with his food choices.

I would highly reccommend asking your Sensory Integration Therapist about the SOS program if you feel like your son's food issues are a problem.

Best of luck to you, I hope your family find outrageous results with RDI and Sensory Integration Therapy!!

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Hollie said...

I just discovered your blog. Thank you for writing with such honesty! It gives hope to other parents whose children suffer with food issues.

While my son doesn't have autism, he does has sensory issues and will only eat a handful of foods. We attended food therapy about a year ago (used the food chaining method) and he is slowly but surely increasing the number of foods he will accept. Just yesterday I almost cried when he licked cinnamon and sugar off an apple slice (a HUGE accomplishment!).

I can relate. Unless they have a child with eating issues, people just don't understand and attribute it to bad parenting. My son is not simply being stubborn...he truly can not eat the food.

During therapy, we were introduced to the food chaining method. With this method we educate the child about the food and try to make food fun. We also take baby steps with the food as you described...tolerate having the food at the table, on the plate, then touch, smell, lick, and eat the food. We're supposed to work with my son every day, but it can be difficult to find fun food-related activities for each day. I created a blog to help parents connect and share ideas. The link is:

At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if you will ever get this comment since it has been over six years since you posted, but I'm dealing with my own autistic children's eating issues and implementing the SOS program, for which I am desperately trying to find more information online. Thank you very much for posting this and please do contact me if you can - I would love to ask questions about how you implemented the program....PS we also homeschool :-)


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