I have several 'long winded' email replies to some of the Asheville and Western NC families I work with and I thought it might be helpful to organize some of these responses into a more general response for anyone who is searching for some help. I have a list of great resources and blogs on this site and I encourage you to check them out. It has been really nice to find other therapists out there who share the same beliefs and I feel confident in their methods so please check out their posts, articles, books, etc for additional learning as well as some of my older posts. I will try to post a few email responses over the next few weeks. Here is the first (name changed):
"First of all I know dinner time can be anything but enjoyable at times. Not only for you guys who are faced with the challenge of having a very selective eater, for a lot of families in general. I suggest taking the time to fall into a more relaxed, somewhat predictable routine. This could be Sam watching a movie while the meal is being prepared. I would also start talking about what you are having for dinner at the start of the day “Its fish night Sam”-- talk about it again on the drive home from daycare. Stay positive!
Little jobs in the kitchen…can be as simple as Sam picking the plates or pushing some buttons on the microwave. Sprinkling some cheese on the quesadilla, shaking some salt or seasoning on one of the dishes. This will help him feel like a pretty big helper and hopefully be the start of a more relaxed mealtime for all of you. Over here we sometimes turn on the music at dinner or have a candle. The point being to create the routine so he knows what will happen next First this, then that, then time to eat….You want this to be as free of stress as possible and start turning the process into one you all look forward to. I know it feels like so much of a hassle at first but this will get easier. You will probably find your own routine and way to de-stress everyone. I do think it’s important for us as parents to keep the stress out of our lives so the kids don’t pick up on it. For some this may be a walk around the neighborhood (depending on how hungry everyone is and the amount of time you have), for others it may be sipping a glass of wine while preparing the meal or turning on some favorite music.
We talked about some ideas for these dinner time meals today. I’ll make a list of some ideas for you and you can go from there:
“Chicken Night” chicken tenders, sweet potato fries, green veggie (you can substitute different potatoes, fries, tator tots and different chicken for other nights)
“Quesadilla Night” keep it simple, cheese quesadilla. Make another with finely chopped meat or veggie. Refried beans for ‘dipping’ quesadilla or chips
“Breakfast for Dinner Night” Pancakes, bacon or ham—maybe crispier the better right now. Try the savory waffles from www.pickytots.blogspot.com. You can just use a Just Add Water pancake or waffle mix with some chopped or puree veggies and seasonings. Ketchup to dip …why not? J
“Fish night” --he has been eating Dr. Praegger’s ‘fishies’ You could try something in a breaded filet form or serve fish nuggets along with your veggie or other food.
These are foods that are somewhat familiar to him but ‘a little different’ so you may not see a lot of interest right off the bat but it is a good way to introduce food family style. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself for things to be perfect or for him to eat a certain amount. Shift your focus over to creating more of a positive experience for him. You are doing that with the routine, the conversation and meals that are not too far- fetched of a possibility for him. He will get there, it is going to take time but he is already doing some great things in a one on one situation…please please don’t get discouraged that he is not carrying those new foods over right away. Or that he won’t try things in restaurants or pot luck situations…one step at a time, this too shall pass! So start with one goal in mind….”Chicken night” I would show him the chicken before you put it in the oven, before that you can start talking about what you’re having for dinner, then have him pick out his plate and utensils…talk about how he can dip the potato pancakes or tator tots or sweet potato fries (whichever you are having) in ketchup. This helps plant the idea and image in his mind…making it more likely that he will want to try these things that you talked about. Don’t beat yourself up over the fact that he may refuse his food. Like anything else a new routine will take time. I would also give him a small portion of crunchy food to ‘wake up his mouth’ and possibly something to chew on during the meal. He did this over the last 2 sessions and I feel he responds well to that additional sensory feedback. You could even give him a few crunchies between some of his food. Have a great week!"
Here is a short video clip of my little helper in the kitchen. You can always see the satisfaction in her smile when we sit down to eat and I say "Guess who made this pasta? She pushed the buttons on the microwave and even stirred in the butter and cheese by herself!"