My kid doesn’t want to lick the spoon. Nor does he want to eat more than a minuscule amount of pudding at a time, or use more than the very tip of his tongue to lick ice cream.
Ironically, I already knew he had oral defensiveness before I knew he had Sensory Processing Disorder. You may find this impossible, but the truth is I had never heard of sensory processing disorder, and I did not know that what I called “his eating issues” were related to the other behavior I wondered about.
When Isaiah was two, he was still eating pureed baby food exclusively. All of my friend’s kids were eating “people” food -Cheerios, pasta, bits of lunch meat. You know, “normal” two-year-old foods.
It was really hard to be the mom who still brought jars of baby food to our outings. I don’t think any of my friends judged me; some were really nice and said, “you know it’s not like he won’t graduate high school because he won’t eat people food now.” But I knew something was wrong, and I wondered if I was doing something wrong. Luckily, my older sister is a Speech Therapist. When I finally talked to her about it, I discovered this wasn’t normal behavior, but that I could do something about it and that if I was diligent, he’d grow out of it. That was the best news I’d heard in a long time.
And so the process began. I wish I could say it was easy. I wish I could say we saw results immediately. That wasn’t the case, but I had a coach and someone to rely on for support and help me trouble-shoot. Most of all, I was patient and persistent.
The best thing I learned was to never give up. Every day I offered him the same food he wouldn’t eat the day before. He didn’t have to eat it, but it had to stay on his plate. Everyday. Then one day he’d pick it up and smell it, the next day maybe he’d lick it. A couple of days later he might actually take a bite. It was work, it was trying, but slowly it began to pay off.
To give you an idea of the time frame, Isaiah ate his first banana at 3 and 1/2, his first un-toasted bagel followed a little while after (still no toasted bagels), and he had his first sandwich right around his 4th birthday. He still hasn’t completely integrated all of his new foods into his daily routines. We still have to be patient. It isn’t like a revelation, “oh yesterday I wouldn’t eat a banana and today I love them!” It’s more like “yesterday I wouldn’t eat them, today I will take a bite. Tomorrow I will ask for one but only eat two bites, and two months from now I will ask for one but only eat half.”
He still won’t eat a whole banana. My sister’s 1.5 yr old would eat two whole bananas in 5 minutes if you’d let her! It’s like my son constantly fights an internal battle. His nervous system is saying “this is giving me the heeby jeebies!” but his cognitive sense is saying,”it smells yummy and tastes yummy and I really want to like it!”