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The food fight

At the beginning of each year we like to set a few intentions to focus on. One of our goals for 2021 was to address Thomas limited food intake.

We’d been on the waiting list to undertake food therapy and a spot opened up for us. It was time to go all in and give it a red-hot crack.

It was perfect timing when we were primed and one of the positives of lockdown meant we had more time at home together to tackle the tall task.

We attended 5 fortnightly sessions with a speech therapist, OT and dietitian to become more educated and work on a plan for further food success.

We discussed what food and food groups he eats, his regular routine, his reactions to various food and dining situations and the goals we hoped to achieve.

We were advised to begin with baby steps attempting to introduce similar sorts of food and textures that he’s already happy to consume.

Each session consisted of ‘play’ with basic exposure to some of the similar foods we were attempting to try. There was no pressure to taste. It was all about making it a fun experience with food which we made into a social story to read after our first session.

During the sessions we also discussed how the new food exposure was evolving and set more targets for the following fortnight to try at home.

Who knew that there were actually 26 steps to eating a new food?

Tolerates- In the same room, at the table, across the table, outside their space, in their space.

Interacts with- Preparation, serving to others, using utensils, manipulating food in own space, using food to interact with other food

Smells- In room, at table, in space, leans down or picks up to smell

Touch- Fingertip, finger pad, whole hand, arm, chest, shoulder, neck, chin, cheek, nose, underneath nose, lips, teeth, tip of tongue, tongue

Taste- Licks lips, tip of tongue taste, full tongue, bites piece & spits out, bites piece, holds in for seconds & spits out, bites piece, chews & spits out

Eating- Bites, chews, swallows some & spits some, chews and swallows whole independently

Certain steps may be skipped in some situations, but this can be the extent of the challenging process to attempt to introduce a new food.

This is the life of an Autism parent. At times, everything feels this hard. So many baby steps to achieve an outcome. It’s really hard work, but so rewarding when it pays off!

In our case, there is no real rhyme or reason behind Thomas fussy food choices. He consumes a variety of colours, textures and flavours. He is content with his food routine. He’s not overweight. He doesn’t consume any sugary sweets, only drinks water and has an extremely basic but balanced diet.

Unfortunately, there was no quick easy fix but there were little wins along the way and positives steps to produce further progress.

He was willing to tentatively taste and at times consume a few new foods and we are more educated and focused on our direction moving forward.

At the end of the day, we can’t force things down his throat, but we’ll continue to encourage and persist with exposing and introducing more food.

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