It all started with our son.
He was almost 4 years old, diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, and struggling on so many fronts.
He couldn’t put on any of his own clothes. He wasn’t bathroom trained. Haircuts and dentist visits were nightmares. Dining in a restaurant was out of the question. He couldn’t go to a movie theater or his brother’s basketball games because the sounds were too overwhelming.
He had echolalia and delayed speech. He would spin, and flap, and charge in to the furniture.
And, due to his sensory issues he had an aversion to almost any food we presented to him.
So we decided that one of us needed to quit our job and stay home to be his full-time parent.
That would be me.
With the help of Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, fantastic Pre-School and Elementary School teachers and our son’s own intelligence and courage, he is now a tall, handsome, polite middle-schooler earning As and Bs on his report card.
He loves to go to the movies. Has no problem getting his haircut. Looks forward to seeing his dentist (even after needing an extraction). Goes to his own basketball games.
And he loves to eat a constantly expanding list of foods whether at home or out at restaurants, and is always open to trying new foods!
So How Did We Get from A to B?
By using a methodology that we have tried to ingrain in the Learny Food app.
Please join me on a little thought experiment…
Imagine being asked to eat an unfamiliar food that might initially disgust you. Let’s say for example, a plate of cold, jellied eels.
How would you approach it?
- You might touch it, sniff it, ask questions about it.
- You will probably need to be eased in to the idea and not forced to do anything.
- You may want to have the flavor and texture described honestly to you by someone you trust.
- You might put a small piece of it on a separate plate.
- You might only try one tiny bite
- You would probably make it clear that if you don’t like that first bite you are not obliged to eat any more of it.
- You might ask what’s in it for you if you do try it.
Which led us to these guidelines:
- Encourage exploration through the senses – Food Science
- Ease your Taster gently in to the process – Low to No Pressure (Fun)
- Discuss the food honestly and no sneaky tricks – Honest Food Advocate
- Small bite size pieces on a clean white plate – Manageable Presentation
- Ask only for them to taste it 1-3 times – Limited Commitment
- Give them the right to decide if they like it or do not like it – Personal Control
- Rewarding their bravery – Rewards and Incentives
In addition to these guidelines, there is one Golden Rule which we had to establish early and reinforce regularly:
“You cannot say you like it, or do not like it, until you have actually tried it at least once.”
Finally, and perhaps the most important element of all was the My Foods list.
We kept a list of each food he had tasted that included its name, a picture and his decision as to whether he liked the food (Green Check) or did not like it (Red Ex).
Our son loved his list and wanted to review it before and after each Tasting. It was clear that for him, the progress he was making was its own reward. Documenting his bravery and watching the list grow gave him confidence in his relationship with food.
So we wanted to share what we had learned with other Picky Eater families and decided to create Learny Food to help make food exploration engaging and fun.
We hope you like it and we hope you find it helpful!
T, N & B