I apologize for not updating recently, just been busy with house stuff and also I’ve picked up some books from the library and when I start reading a good book I dont want to do anything else. Writing out this post here before I forgot the details of the visit.
I finally got Bilal an appointment for a feeding therapy evaluation, first sent the paperwork to Marcus and they transferred it to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the same rehab center we go to for speech therapy. I was told to bring in a fruit cup, beef jerky, string cheese, vegetable chips, juice and milk, to make sure there were items he liked and items he didnt. I had no idea what the evaluation would entail really, and what a feeding program was. Bilal since he turned 3 has become a picky eater, he suddenly dropped certain foods and will no longer eat them and we’re down to a list of only 10 accepted foods, if I tried offereing him anything else he would either ignore it or spit or gag on it, not wanting to deal with vomit I just go with what he wants and not push it, I decided to leave that to a professional to deal with. I was told that he shouldnt eat too soon before the evaluation as he was required to eat in front of her, so he only got breakfast and snack at school, no lunch.
We get there and are introduced to the occupational therapist, we go over Bilal’s eating history, reflux, when he dropped foods, eating habits and what he eats. She discussed seating arrangements and says using a booster or a special chair that provided sensory input for him to push his feet against, this was important so that he wouldnt move around too much while seated which is an issue at home and he can concentrate better on his meal. She explained that eating uses all the senses and for a child with autism that can be too much to handle, she suggested we use the sensory brush or bounce mat before meals. To blow bubbles, whistles, balloons for oral exercise, wash hands and sit down to eat. I am to place 3 food items on his plate 1 from each food group, with at least 1 of them a preferred food, and he has to show any kind of interaction with the non preferred ones, look at it, touch it, smell it, put against his lips, teeth or place it in his mouth, I should model for him and give him a lot of praise and positive reinforcement, meals should last no more than half an hour, and whatever he wouldn’t eat he can than “kiss bye bye” before throwing into another plate or the garbage, the idea being that he touches it with his lips, or he can put in into his mouth and spit it out in “shooting rockets” form again being he tasted the food. I should also change my language from “Can you eat this?” to “You can eat this” no questions or begging just stating it as a matter of fact that this is what we will eat. With time and practice and patience he will become less sensitive to new food, flavors, textures and will learn to eat a variety of food. She watched him eat a Mozzarella cheese stick and noted that he had some minor oral motor weakness, because he chewed with his mouth open and didn’t push the food around with his tongue just let it roll around under his teeth. So I was to follow this home program and see her once every other week with new tips and suggestions and guidelines to follow. She said I should continue only offereing a drink (juices like V8 Fusion or Fruitables) after he completes his meal, and use a lot of sneaky chef ideas by hiding pureed vegetables in foods he already eats.
I understand and agree with everything she says but some of it is a lot of work, change of habits, more cooking (I hate cooking) and I’m also teaching the baby to eat as well and going around his teething problems and bottle attachment issues and its just easier offering Bilal what he would eat with no special tactics and getting it over and done with, but it is therapy and I’ll find a way to stick to it, just as I am sticking to his schedules, taking him to therapy and discussing with his teacher and therapists ways to fight his autism whether that be social, speech, fine motor or oral motor delays.