The last two nights as I was sitting at the dinner table with my husband and two sons, I was checking out the eating styles of our family. Usually we have one or two water glasses spilled per meal despite all good efforts and best intentions.
Awhile back John got smart and placed towels underneath the chairs of our boys at the kitchen table. This indeed was a valiant effort and we can proudly say that a full 28% of spills are now caught on the towels! (Hey, it's a start!)
Here is how a typical dinner in our household would look to a casual observer:
John does all the cooking because someone (not naming names but happens to be the house female) doesn't like weird smells and textures. More often than not, the boys are not eating the same thing as the parents. As such, John gets to prepare 2 or 3 different meals per night. This would help him hone his cooking skills, except as you'll see, he's the only one in our family currently embracing variety.
1) John (hubby & neurotypical) eats everything on his plate as well as leftovers from everyone else. Mix, match, whatever. It all ends up in the same place... (his philosophy) He uses salt and sauce and doesn't care whether his food touches.
2) Karen (me, an Aspie with sensory issues) eats one plain food at a time and takes sips of water in-between. No condiments for me. From time to time, I eye John's plate to make sure no offensive smelling food will be added. (My husband tends to like a lot of stinky stuff and my sense of smell is like a bloodhound. He can eat salsa downstairs and I'll be ready to gag upstairs.)
Unacceptable Foods & Drinks: Most vegetables, sauces, condiments, anything spicy, anything not plain, anything with carbonation, coffee, cocoa and tea
3) Justin (our oldest, who has Asperger's Syndrome and sensory issues) has his food separated and as usual, it will be yellow or beige, crunchy, bland or plain. If we're lucky, a divided plate will do. More often than not it is cheesy noodles on one plate, corn on another, cauliflower on a third. Separate forks for each!! Should any of his foods accidentally touch or should there not be the right amount of cheese on each noodle, that portion of food would be "ruined" for the rest of the meal. In fact, his whole meal might be ruined.
Acceptable Foods for Justin: Pizza (Pepperoni only - won't eat crust), McDonald's Chicken McNuggets (only brand), Dad's Cheesy Noodles, his Gram's Macaroni & Cheese, chips, Cheetos, Rice Cakes, Pretzels, baby carrots, apple, Old Spaghetti Factory spaghetti with mizithra cheese, Olive Garden breadsticks, white rice, toast cut into 4 equal triangles (but he won't eat the crust) Cheez-Its, M & Ms, chocolate ice cream.
Unacceptable Foods: Almost everything else, especially if it is a meat, sauce or is non bland.
4) Ryan (our youngest, who has autism and sensory issues) is sticking his hand in his water glass and pulling out ice to eat with his hands. Occasionally he picks up a fork, tries to stick it in some corn or other food item and pretend to eat. Then he goes back to eating ice chips. Occasionally he will touch another food, sniff it or lick it and if it isn't to his taste, scream "YUCKY!!!!!!!!" and throw the food or plate across the table. Ryan's aim is quite accurate and more often than not, the offending food item lands on John's plate. To my chagrin and Justin's, John subsequently eats the "YUCKY" food. Ryan giggles.
Acceptable Foods for Ryan: It used to be almost anything so long as it wasn't hot, too warm or had fat on it. In the past couple of months, he has gone from eating a variety of foods to not wanting to eat at all.
Unfortunately, Ryan is very oral and is always trying to place inanimate objects in his mouth instead of food. We are constantly having to watch to make sure he doesn't stick something in his mouth unsafe. Chewelry sometimes helps but he has to be redirected many times per hour.
That's just a quick glimpse of a typical dinner at our table. I plan to talk more about our odd eating habits in other blog postings but this is something I've been thinking about posting and I wanted to get it out into the blogosphere before I got distracted by something else.
When I was at a newly formed Autism Support Group meeting about a month ago at Ryan's preschool, the moderator asked what kind of topics we'd like to hear about or get help with. One mom called out "getting my child to eat healthy foods" and every other parent except one raised her / his hand in agreement.
It seems like there are a lot of us picky eaters out there and it starts at a very young age. I will share my own personal confessions of a picky eater in an upcoming blog because this is something I've struggled with since I was in preschool and when I was in junior high, I developed an eating disorder (compulsive overeating) which I am proud to say that I have recovered from (for the most part) but still deal with daily since after all, food is one of those things we need to stay alive!
If you feel like sharing (anonymously is cool too) , what have your experiences been with eating and food variance? Are you or your child on the spectrum a picky eater? What has been successful for you in trying to introduce new foods?