Monday, February 25, 2013

Guest Blogger: Reader Cassandra Atkins

Feeding questions come up many times on Grape Jelly on Pizza.  This is how Cassandra got her 5 year old son to eat healthy foods.....

I have no links and I didn't do any research on how to do this for Al. WE just did what we thought was right and this was before we even knew he had a diagnosis of Autism. I actually felt guilty after I found out that food aversions went along with the diagnosis. Then the docs started telling me I did well. That helped some, but I am a Momma. I think it is in our DNA to feel guilty and question what we do even if it turns out for the best.  I hope this helps someone, anyone.

When Al, our oldest son who happens to have Aspergers, was about 5 we got tired of him not eating much of anything. He was overweight and we kept thinking if we could just get him to eat good things it might just help. So began our journey of getting this wild child to eat. OK when I say eat something, I mean something other than what I hear is usually the standard for our kids. I think you all know the diet. It consisted of chicken nuggets, chips and cookies that are not broken or chipped, bananas, Vienna sausages, canned carrots, I think those are real veggies, and steak. OK so the steak is a surprise but in his defense he thought anything that was not hamburger or hot dogs or chicken was steak. Oh and we also went through the no meat except Momma tricking him into eating chicken salad that came from the hometown chicken place. They knew me really well there.

We decided that he had to eat better. It was getting to the point that he was throwing his school food in the trash can. We had gotten worried. We were also tired of the 'oh he will eat when he gets hungry', or the docs telling us to use vitamins and the supplement drinks. We figured we are Mom and Dad we can fix this. So we did.

It took us about a year and a half but we won. It wasn't that hard either. This is how we did it. Every night we sat at the dinner table together.  Al sat by me. We fixed every ones plate and we started the rule, no dessert unless you take at least 2 bites of everything on your plate. This was not fun to begin with. After Al ate what he wanted, I took the spoon and fixed a big spoonful of whatever was left and he had to eat 2 of them. At first we had to bribe him with really chocolaty things or things that he loved. After the first 3 or 4 nights he caught on that we were not playing and this was how it was going to be, period. After 6 months, we let him fix his own spoonfuls. He would do it but only if we had dessert. Al is now 11 and we still have dessert after every supper.

One night we all went out to eat and Dad chose Chinese. Any other time we had Chinese food, I had order fries and chicken so Al would eat. So this is what I did that night. I went back and fixed our middle son Ras' plate. I had put broccoli and cashew chicken and the stir fried green beans, plus fixed him a small salad with ranch dressing. This was normal for Ras he has always loved salads and veggies of any kind. I sat down and started to eat and Al looked at me and said, "Momma, where is my broccoli?" "What Al? Did you really just ask for broccoli?" "Yep I love it." I went back and fixed him 2 pieces, thinking why am I wasting my time? He is so not going to eat this. I took it back to the table and he ate it and asked for more. This time I took him up to the buffet and let him choose. By this time we had started the clean your plate rule.

Finally after about 1 1/2 years my baby was eating, and it was real food. No longer did I have to beg and plead he just ate.  We have been told by all special ed teachers, who have dealt with lots of ASD kids that they are amazed. Al is a very adventurous eater. He will try 2 bites of anything on his plate, no matter what it is or what it looks like. He even went from throwing a whole food tray away at school because they put lettuce and tomatoes on it to begging for salads and eating them every day at school with ranch dressing of course.

Please feel free to ask me questions. I will try to answer them. This worked well for us. The main thing to remember is be consistent. I chose supper, that was when we were all together and he was home. We even did this if we went out to eat.  You can just imagine what I heard when I started this because I was using dessert. Well, guess what he lost weight. Yep, even though he got and still does get, a cookie or piece of pie/cake, pudding whatever every night, he lost weight and has not gained it back. Everything in moderation. Besides, I am so proud of Al, I would never take things he loves from him just because someone says it could be unhealthy. The one thing I limit is red dye. We see a difference in him when he drinks/eats it. He still can have it; red is his favorite color, but only weekends or special occasions. I have discovered that the red dye in food coloring gel, the kind cake decorators use, they sell it at Walmart in the cake decorating area, does not affect him at all. I use that for homemade cakes, cookies, icings and candies that I make, bake and make lots of stuff homemade. I started doing it to save money and discovered that all of us feel better and like homemade stuff better. I am a stay at home mom so I have time. Nothing wrong with store bought, I do that too Good luck and I hope my crazy rambling story helps just one kid out there. I know from experience that they feel so much better when they eat a good balanced meal. As Al says at the end of every sentence, they feel better literally. No Momma I mean it seriously:)

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