Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Trying New Things!


I know I have mentioned Paprika's eating issues before, and that she sees a Pediatric Occupational Therapist Feeding Specialist once/week. Paprika is what you'd call a Problem Feeder - which is different from a Picky Eater. A Problem Feeder will eat less than 20 foods, will not tolerate new foods in proximity, and will basically starve themselves before touching or trying a new food. Picky eaters will eat usually more than 20 foods, and are more flexible in their food experiences. Here is a short article about the differences: Picky Eater or Problem Feeder?

When we first started working with our OT back in April, Paprika had about 5 foods she could eat. Each food had to be just so, and any deviation would cause complete rejection of the food. It was really frustrating, to say the least.

The process of expanding her diet has been arduous, but one thing that has really helped us has been her "homework chart." Basically, it is just a chart and for every new food she tries, she puts a stamp on the chart. She will note if it is salty or sweet, juicy or dry, and if she likes it (hint: she never does!) We aim for two new foods/day. Once the chart is completed, Paprika gets a special toy or reward.

When we first started the homework chart, all Paprika had to do was allow the food item on her plate. Then, we moved up to getting her to lick the item. Now, she has to touch the item, and put a bite of it in her mouth (and then take it back out of her mouth) to get a stamp. Basically, the goal of this is to break her out of her rigidity a bit and get her comfortable with new (food) situations.

At one point, I pushed things a little too far with this. She had really been wanting a special Barbie mermaid doll, and I told her if she ate/swallowed a bite of strawberry, she could have the doll. It was a little like an episode of Fear Factor watching her try to eat the strawberry. About 45 minutes into her anxiously looking at the doll, then back to the strawberry, she took one bite. But it was a little too much, too fast- and she had a horrible, gagging fit and almost threw up on the table.

So, now we take things more slowly! ;-) What can I say, I am learning, too!

I think any child - problem eater or picky eater - could benefit from a food reward chart like this. We have tried everything in the past (including all those books like The Sneaky Chef and Just Take A Bite) - and honestly, nothing was working.

It is very slow going, but the rewards are worth it. Despite her restricted diet, Paprika has a fairly healthy diet, all things considered (thanks largely to Ovaltine shakes and S'mores flavored Luna Bars). She is in the 90th percentile for height and is overall physically healthy.

But one of the things I really want for her is for her to be able to enjoy a wide variety of foods, and not be imprisoned by her very narrow, rigid food choices. I know it sounds like a simple thing, and to some it probably sounds crazy...but if you've experienced something like this, then you know what I'm talking about!

So, here's to trying new things. Our Food Homework Chart is really helping us, and I will keep you posted on how it progresses, and if you try it with your kids, let me know how it works for you! :-)


Sheila said...

Congratulations to Paprika!!! I always loved the advice to have them eat it at least 15 times and they'd develop a taste for the food. REALLY?!!! If I'm having trouble with one bite I'm sure the 15 will be a snap! I'm so glad Mr. Mustard is supportive. Trust me there is nothing worse than a spouse who adds to your stress and frustration. My son's food choice was nutritionally healthy, but I do not miss these struggles and the helplessness and concern I felt.

Mimi said...

This was so interesting.
We've had those issues, except we didn't know they were issues, with our eldest. She's now 19 and eats very narrow range. I wish I'd had this program a long time ago, it's too late now for us.
You're doing a great job.

Sheri said...

That's awesome! What a great idea too. I am so, so tired of having to make a different dinner for each of us. Tired. I am going to have to read up on those links. I really think my daughter is like this. Thanks for sharing her progress.

ferfischer said...

This sounds like great progress! I'm glad you found an OT that is making a difference, but I know that it's your family with the OT's guidance that is doing all the hard work! These kids - they keep us on our toes, don't they? Don't you feel like nothing is easy?

Susanne said...

Thank you for the information. It has been eye opening and I have shared it with two other people already. You are doing such a wonderful job of supporting your daughter!

asplashofsunshine said...

WOW, my son finished OT for feeding a few months ago. Before OT, we got an incredible amount of comments, and unsolicited advice about how to make him better. OT definitely helped him, although it will always be a struggle. Your sweet daughter will not be imprisoned by her food choices for too long. It'll happen. Luckily, as she matures, social situations DO help a little bit. She may try something new simply because her BFF of the week had it. Who knows. Wishing you luck (and patience). I know I need it!

Tracy said...

This pots is an excellent explanation of problem vs picky eating! Thank you!

Sarah and Jonathan said...

Hi Erika,
I just wanted to let you know that I've read your blog for a while (I'm not sure how I first found it - if it was through FF or through someone else's link) and so enjoyed your sweet chronicling of your little girls and life at the beach. You do such a great job in telling the story of your day to day life and your pictures are wonderful! We are expecting our first baby very soon so I've started our own little blog Thanks for the inspiration to record the "typical" days which end up painting such a special portrait of a family's life!!

FourJedis said...

That's great that she decided to try the strawberry. I really like your chart system and the feedback she can give to the new things she tries. While we don't have the same eating issues as you are having with Paprika's eating, it's such a great idea to apply to all children who at some point have some texture and taste issues. Your mothering skills continue to amaze me.