At 42 Degrees

At 42 Degrees

Monday, July 7, 2014

Autism & Eating: One Little Guy's Journey

Isaac's journey in life and eating began in January of 2010,...


Autism wasn't a specter then,...although Apraxia was probably present because our little guy
didn't vocalize much aside from saying,"Et,..et,...et,"....we thought Isaac was a Latin scholar,
as "Et" is "And" in Latin,...but perhaps our babykins was trying to warn us that life
was going to get very interesting,....and don't you know it did!

Severe Jaundice made breastfeeding very difficult those first few weeks, 
but once Isaac was out of the NICU and home from the hospital,
he got the hang of nursing in short order.




Criteria for daily life: 
Hug Me, Hold Me, Kiss Me,
and Give Me MILK,
Mommy Milk to be specific,
Lots and lots of it!!!!!





And,...YES!...Just for the record,
Isaac's been chock full of personality from day one.


Once we started to introduce solid foods,...we ran into a snag with sensory overload,
because ALL infant foods: rice cereal, mashed bananas, sweet potatoes, ect,...
are soft and mushy and gooshy,...
and Baby Isaac wasn't haven't it,...thank you very much.


Isaac was seven months old before he'd even attempt a cracker,
fortunately nursing for Isaac was still going very well.


First Birthday,...Isaac liked the candle, but the rest of the cake
was pretty much weirded-him-out,
it was sensory,...but we didn't know it.
And as for eating that birthday cake,...that wasn't happening!


In fact, Isaac pretty much rejected any 'sweet foods'
cookies, ice cream, pudding, apple sauce, yogurt,
and even any type juice
was most decidedly waved away,
after a finger-tip taste test,
and let's get real about coaxing,
Airplane spoons, zoomy-voices, or any other such antics
were not only a waste of time,
but by the expression on our little guy's face,
and insult to his intelligence.




It took a lot of courage for Isaac to try a new food,
what's easy for us,
is a sensory challenge for him,
and we gradually learned what Isaac would consume:
scrambled eggs, bits of chicken, or soft-but-not-mushy-beef/pork,
FISH,...thank goodness Isaac adores fish,
beans, any type as long as not mushy,
corn, fried squash-fried nice and dry,
fried okra, nice and dry,
green peas, apples, oatmeal-nice and gummy,
peanut butter bites (oatmeal/peanut butter),
French fries, natch, raisins,
sunflower seed kernels,
any type nut, yeah no allergies!!!
and any type cracker or pretzel,
even the super healthy ones,...but birthday cake,
I think the expression on Isaac's face says it all,...


Shorty after Isaac's second birthday he was diagnoses with severe Apraxia,
and flagged for suspected Autism,
both those terms,...meant nothing to us at first,
I remembered reading the report and thinking:
"What in the world is Apraxia?...Doesn't sound so bad."
As for the suspected Autism,
that was a toughie,...it sounds ominous, even though,
I wasn't exactly sure what it was, 
but both were affecting Isaac's eating habits,...



Fork and Spoon? 
To Isaac,...just something to play with while waiting on some 
Boutique Burgers and French fries with big brother,..

Requesting food is extremely difficult when you are not able to talk:
pointing,
grunting,
taking our hand and indicating what was needed 
were Isaac's methods of communication
for his nutrition needs,
and woe to us,
if we didn't guess what our little guy was wanting,
tears for him,
and quite often tears for Mama,
who was trying so hard to meet her little guys needs,
during a maelstrom of diagnoses and doctor appointments.

Sign Language was an absolute Godsend,
drink,
eat,
water,
cookie,
and MORE,
were first words
Isaac learned to sign in like two days,
and it helped so much in the eating realm,...
And yes,...Isaac did come around to cookies,
especially healthy ones,
wasn't that sporting of him,
as Mama had enough to worry about aside 
from making sure he hit all his nutrition marks. 



To give Isaac his due,
he's actually a very good little eater,
with the caveat 
that his sensory requirements are respected,
soft and gooshy or mushy
is not cutting it with him,
but this Mama has no problems with sneaking sneaky foods
into her little guys diet,
all is fair in love and nutrition,
so Isaac has no idea that mashed bananas are
added to his oatmeal,
that kale goes into mud milk,
a banana, kale, soymilk smoothie
and THE only soft-type food Isaac will eat.

Scrambled eggs, pancakes and cookies
 are a great place to hide nutritional stuff,
such as pumpkin cookies,
zucchini pancakes,
and nutritional yeast is a given for scrambled eggs,
and Isaac is none the wiser,
until he is old enough to read this post,...

Super healthy lunch at Whole Foods before speech therapy,
which incidentally cost EXACTLY as much as a happy meal,
Isaac is munching on beans, peas, corn, orzo, rice,
and organic strawberries, 


But let's get real,...
Isaac has a Daddy,
who is a Sugar Daddy in the best sense,
AND big brothers who ain't as nutritionally strict as Mama,
so for course,...
Isaac was eventually introduced to donuts,...
and note the sensory grasp and wide mouth technique which
Isaac employs to get the sugary donut exactly into his mouth 
and not about his lips. 


Drink of choice: Water,...



Birthday cakes are only for sensory play,...let that be clearly understood!




But, Isaac likes chicken fingers,...and any type fish,...as long as it isn't mushy!



It is a joy to watch Isaac eat French fries,
as he really, really, really likes ketchup,
yet ketchup is soft and gooshy,
but that didn't stop 
Isaac from developing his own technique,
precision dipping,
mouth open WIDE,
 ketchup dipped fry goes directly in mouth,
and Isaac can go on record as THE neatest 
French fry eating kid in history.
Napkins, not needed,



Utensils are another story,
with sensory issues, 
it would make sense that Isaac would
gladly use fork and spoon,
but that's not been the case,
aside from his morning oatmeal,
he trusts those discriminating little fingers,
and NAPKINS are needed,
a ton!




Spoon and fork for daily use has been a challenge,
just as regular meals,
as Isaac has been a typical grazer,
but with so many other issues to deal with,
 grazing and utensils
haven't been a battle we've been willing to fight,
utensils are provided,
and encouraged,
and meal times are as set as we can make them,
and if Isaac eats, he eats,
if not, he lets us know,
believe me, 
Isaac LETS us know when he is hungry!!!



Like many typical families in the United States, 
we have busy lives and are on the go,
just preschool and therapy keeps us on the road,
and when running errands,
I take advantage of a convenience when I can,
like combining lunch time and grocery shopping
with typical burger and fries,
since Whole Foods is waaaaaaay on the other side of town,
but let's be clear about Isaac's McDonald's hamburger,
ketchup is for French fries,
NOT hamburgers,
and it is funny or not, 
but we when go to the counter at the McDonald's in our local Walmart,
the cashier smiles and automatically says:
"Small burger, NO ketchup, NO mustard!"
But for some weird reason the cook ALWAYS 
puts a ton of those diced dehydrated onions on the burger,
but even weirder is that Isaac likes the onions,
they are dehydrated so they are not soft or mushy,
and while I shop,...he happily munches,
and we have no tears, no tantrums, and without ketchup,
little mess to wipe up from that cute little face. 




When we pack lunches like for a picnic or field trip,
I usually pack diced meat, usually chicken,
fruit, like grapes, because Isaac likes grapes,
some type cracker or pretzel like protein pretzels,
and water, 
because Isaac is NOT into juice,
he won't even hold a juice box,....
so we do our juice via grapes, mandarin oranges,
 and berries,
Isaac likes berries,...especially raspberries and blackberries. 



Our two older sons are grown men,
finishing college and starting careers and quite often
when they get some time off, 
we'll go out to eat,
and it's been important to us to take Isaac into restaurants,
LOTS of restaurants,
and frankly an iPhone with apps and movies
has been a Godsend to keep Isaac happily distracted while the adults talk. 
Chicken fingers, fries, and bites of baked beans,
and at our local BBQ place,
carrot cake,....
but not the icing,
pleasssssssse not the icing,
but the nice and dry cake,
it's yum!



Preschool lunches are another matter,
by choice, we purchase Isaac's school lunch,
and breakfast because Isaac is not, but not a morning person,
and also because
we thinks it's important that he is exposed 
to different foods,
and this past school year 
Isaac's preschool teachers did marvel
and report that Isaac is THE only child in his class to eat his veggies,
so that's a blessings,
but he's still 0 for 0 for anything mushy at school,
or home,
aside from mud milk smoothie made with kale,
go figure,....he'll drink that,
or rather eat it off my spoon,
but not ice cream or pudding or yogurt,
that's not happening!



Snack choices at home are heathy or healthy and Isaac has his choice,
and usually he'll choose some nuts or raisins,
he likes the little boxes of raisins and I keep those in my purse
for distraction when distraction is needed,
and apples,
Isaac dearly loves an apple,
but let's be clear, 
do NOT cut up or peel his apple,
Isaac prefers a whole apple,
and I try to purchase as small as I can find,
less waste,
although he's been known
to consume a whole, larger apple,
quite happily,...


But for a snack, snack,
let's get real,
for Isaac there is ONLY one true snack in the world,
and that's POPCORN,...


Donuts are a rare treat,...holidays or vacations days,...that's it!


Four birthday cakes down,...and Isaac has YET to take a taste,
but that's OK,
the cake is meant for celebration,
and if celebration for Isaac means just blowing out candles,
we'll go with it,
it's his birthday,....


Funny,...but writing this post about Autism's effect on Isaac's eating habits,
I have realized that aside from the sensory issues,
Autism hasn't done any harm to Isaac's nutrition profile,
while I know that is not the case for a great many children on the spectrum,
for Isaac's journey,...he's surprisingly well rounded,
for a four year old,...that is.

However that's not saying that Autism hasn't had a role in Isaac's diet,
let's be clear,
the sensory stuff is real,
and not a joke to Isaac,
and he doesn't understand it any more than we do,
Isaac just knows how he feels,
and he shares those emotions
 - positive and negative - 
the best he can with in the limited scope of his communication abilities.


Although there have been positive signs,
in the past six months,....Isaac has been more open and obliging
about using utensils for almost all of his meals,
and his meal times have become more standard,
it's a biggie that Isaac will eat breakfast AT the table,
and lunch and dinner too,...sometimes,
but these things take time,
and Isaac WILL taste different foods,
soft and mushy he still rejects,
but at least my brave little guy tries, 
and that's what counts.

This spring we built a vegetable garden from scratch,
to Isaac's delight,
playing in the dirt,...but not mud,
let's be real,....NOT mud,
but nice and dry dirt, is fun,
and watering the vegetables is tons of fun,
and helping to gather the harvest,
and EAT the harvest as Isaac can eat his weight in fried squash,
but let's be clear,
Isaac inspects each piece of fried squash,
and that Autism,
and it's OK,....he's just a little guy,
and if he wants to be picky about absolutely NO green on his squash,
then for now we'll give it leeway,
life's too short,
and Isaac's come a long way in four years,...

From a tiny baby drinking Mommy Milk






to a Mammoth Squash Wrangler in camouflage.



Clearly Isaac's nutritional journey is still just beginning,...and in the future we hope 
our little guy will be able to conquer some of these sensory issues,
but for now we'll deal with each challenge...one meal at a time,... 


Until I post again,...may God bless and keep you!



1 comment:

  1. I have aversions to beef, pork, seafood, garlic, strong flavors, chunky textures, cream soups, raw tomatoes unnaturally red hot dogs, various condiments, and anything swimming in cheese/gravy. Isaac is four and I'm entering high school. What a difference four years can make.

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