Sunday 10 February 2013

Taking the Solid Food Hill

It has long been a challenge to get Alex to eat solid food.  He's been on pureed food since he started eating non-milk products.  Any attempt to place anything solid in his hands or mouth would trigger a gag reflex or vomiting.  We checked to see if there was something physically wrong and five different specialist agreed there wasn't a physical problem.

It was all oral sensitivity.

There was a long stretch where he wouldn't even touch food.  Not even lentils.  And I have never, ever in my life tried to make him eat lentils.  Not even in soup.  He'd pound away with drumsticks but substitute breadsticks and he would drop them as if they were on fire.

So we worked on that.  We worked on getting him to tolerate having food in his presence.  We worked on having him tolerate other people eating food.  (There were days when he would not have looked more disgusted if he had been watching people shovel dog poop in their mouths.)

Okay.  Two years in.  Got that part down.

We started slowly increasing the chunkiness and solidity of his pureed food, which necessitated buying a very fancy food processor (after 3 cheap ones blew out in a matter of weeks).  We learned the hard way that if we moved too quickly, he would stop eating entirely until we went back to practically liquid offerings.  A change every 4-5 months.  That was our limit.

Another two years on that track.

Having continued with tolerance, we began to try and introduce bread.  It's soft and the middle part clumps together when chewed (thus avoiding the unpleasant breaking apart sensation which seemed to bother him most).  At first, just tolerate the bread on the table.  Then touching it to his lips.  Then holding a tiny piece in his mouth and immediately spitting it out.  Then holding it longer in his mouth.  Chewing then spitting out.  And on and on.

Another year and a half before he would actually eat the bread.

Only six months to learn to tolerate peanut butter on it.

Then came the breakthrough.  Of his own volition, he ate pizza.  We were shocked and thrilled.  He started rejecting it again soon after but we knew we were starting to hit the home stretch.  Whatever psychological and sensory barriers were preventing him from eating were starting to fall.

With his school's help, we added muffins to his repetoire.  Like bread, only with flavour.  In only two months, he was eating a muffin by himself.

Next was a bold move: pasta.  (And never have we felt sillier than boiling a pot of water and putting one piece of pasta into it so he could take fresh pasta to school.)  Less than two weeks to eat it.  More pieces in the bin.  Very fast adaptation levels.

Now we're adding sauce and moving to a new level at home.  I'm beginning to transition him away from pureed vegetables.  Instead, I'll give him mixed frozen vegetables (corn, peas and little carrot cubes).  They're small and it's all stuff he eats already (except the peas).  Once per week, he'll have to eat a small bowl of mixed veg instead of his purees.  We'll see how long it takes for him to get accustomed to it.

I've even managed to get him to eat at the table instead of in front of the TV or computer.  Granted, he still has an iPad on a stand most of the time, but I can understand and accept the need for a distraction.  Tech-free table-tops can wait on the agenda.

It would be wonderful to be free of the need to constantly grind out pureed food.  Not to mention the expense of buying the materials.  For the first time, this is starting to feel like a battle we can win in the measurable future.

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