Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Adventures in Food Chaining

Dinner at our home can be struggle. My oldest has Sensory Processing Disorder that manifests itself in food. That's just a fancy way of saying that the neurons in his little brain don't fire for the sense of feel within his mouth so eating can be hard for him. We've been to occupational therapists and food therapists where we've seen progress but we often regress back to a list of about 20 foods that he willingly eats.

We don't want to make a big deal about food because we don't want the dinner table to be a negative experience for him or produce new traumas for our sweet little guy but recently my husband and I both started to feel that he needed a little push to try new foods.

So, we gave food chaining a try. There are books out on the topic but we decided to just take the concept and do our own thing. After years of watching him at occupational therapy and food therapy, I felt confident that we had the tools to help him. The idea with food chaining is that you build on food that the child already likes.

For example, my kiddo would eat cheese pizza with no sauce. So, we put tomato sauce on half of his pizza. We explained to him that just like we make him brush his teeth to keep his teeth healthy, it's our job as his parents to make sure that he can eat all kinds of foods to be healthy.

So, we told him to be prepared to see new foods on the table. At first he panicked but with a little encouragement, he tried it and discovered that he liked it. Woo hoo! We were so proud of him for taking that leap. Small victories, right?

After that he was feeling brave so we made him macaroni and cheese to try. At first we saw panic again but he eventually ate it. We were on a roll so the next night we had tacos. Normally he'll eat the taco shell with melted cheese but we scattered ground beef on the shell and low and behold he ate it! It was another breakthrough.

We decided to put together all the components of his new foods and prepared Beefaroni. It looked so scary to him to see pasta with meat sauce but when we explained that he had already tried all the ingredients successfully, he mustered up his courage and ate it all up!

It was dinner miracle! Next up will be adding fresh veggies to the tomato sauce. This may be harder for him but he's built up so much confidence that I think he'll be open to at least taking a bite and maybe even learn to enjoy it.

It's so hard to get of our comfort zone but I'm proud of our family for gently pushing our picky eater. I feel a new sense of hope that we can help him overcome his dinner time panic, one meal at a time.

You can learn more about Sensory Processing Disorder here.


Linda D. said...

Brilliant! I'm sure there are all sorts of learning theories to back up your approach, too! Well done, mom!


I read the first page of the link but still don't get it. Is he unable to differentiate different textures and tastes in his mouth? If so, why would he get panicky rather than just not wanting some foods?

Not criticizing of course. I have never heard of this and don't understand it. However, it is very brave of him to come out of his comfort zone and try. Good boy, Griffin! [when he is a 6 foot teenager eating all your food you just may regret these leaps and bounds haha]

Angelwithatwist said...

UBer SPD means that his brain will only allow him to tolerate certain textures if you will. It is like having OCD for foods. IF it isn't a certain color or texture the brain sends signals to reject it. I am so glad he is making such great strides Leigh that is awesome..

Anonymous said...

Wow, I am happy for you. I wish I had understood earlier that my son had an actual problem and was not just being picky. Now he is 12 and stubborn and will not try anything new.

Andrea said...

That is fantastic that you kept the dinner table a happy place, no doubt that mixed with the chaining played a role in the success! Hooray!

Sue said...

Wow. He is really making great strides. That's some smart parenting!