Sunday, January 31, 2016

Getting an Official Diagnosis

By the time my son was a couple of months shy of his third birthday is when we got him evaluated by professionals that deal with feeding issues all the time.  Part of me hoped they would say he is just plain picky eater.  But I really wanted help trying to figure out why he was so picky! It has been nearly 2 years since we went to that first evaluation.  I am much happier with the options we have.  Do I still have a picky eater? You bet! It is still really hard at times, but mostly we are able to convince him to at least try a new food.

Looking back at some paperwork this morning brought me tons of memories from that time a couple of years ago.  As you might also have the same experienced, once you go thru a phase with one kid you forget all the details and mostly think of this past time only in general terms.  It was good reminder for me to look at the evaluation results to share it with you because if I only based it on memory you'd only get half the story.

As a disclaimer here, I just wanted to say that I am fully aware that there are many different levels of sensory disorders and that my son only has a mild case of it.  I know there are parents out there that don't even consider this level of pickiness to be a problem because their kid's case is much more severe.  I am not a doctor or a therapist to evaluate a child.  I am simply a mom who has noticed some odd behaviors and wanted to seek help.  My goal with going to therapy was to aid my son with eating socially available foods and to teach him to try new foods.  If you feel your son or daughter could have some degree of sensory disorder mention it to your pediatrician so you both can find the proper course of action.

Things I noticed about my son at the time
Excessive drooling
Sensitivity to noises (even the washer and dryer noises were too loud at some point)
Aversion to certain textures
Aversion to getting hands/feet dirty (including touching sand)
Used to swallow soft food (like pasta) basically whole
Leaving the table/refusing to come to the table
Flailing arms/legs when seated at the table
Pushing spoon/food away
Diet was becoming more and more limited as he was getting tired of the same foods but refused to try new ones

What the therapists noticed about my son at the time
Had difficulty going from smooth texture to lumpy (this I told during eval)
Will grimace and tear up when trying new food
Showed ansiety when seeing mom prepare food

"He does present with mild sensory based challenges; however much of his difficulty is related to past experiences and learned responses leading to mal-adaptive behavior"
So basically he had a little bit of the tactile issues I was suspecting, but probably by my guidance had learned to avoid foods that he perceived as "not good." I always think I did this to him.  If I had only let him explore foods on his own.  I did what I thought was right at the time and if I could go back I would let him explore more from our plates, as opposed to offering baby cereal and baby food exclusively and jumping in to save him every time he gagged.  Looking back now it was a little over the top, but as a first time mom it scared me witless.
His official diagnosis was "Aversion to food items, Behavioral feeding disorder, and oral dysphagia."  When I read this part my thought was, "Ok, so it's not just in my head." I felt that once I new they could pinpoint the issue we could find a solution for it.

What we did to attempt to fix the problem
Both me and my husband were willing to be involved in this journey.  The therapists recommended Occupational and Feeding Therapy.  During Occupational Therapy my son got exposed to food in a non-threatning environment where he was not expected to eat any of the foods.  In Feeding Therapy, he learned how to overcome the mental and behavioral barriers that were preventing him from eating new foods.  For the first few sessions I was present, and then slowly started leaving the room earlier until he was alone with the therapist for that period of time.  The first few times he was invited to go back by himself he protested - kicked and screamed (as the therapist put in eval form) when led to the therapy room.
I was asked to bring foods I wanted him to try and they worked with him on one food at the time week in, week out.  Once he presented progress they would move on to the next.  This lasted for about a year.
At the very end we had a couple of sessions with a Psychologist who helped us with the transition from clinic to home (he was totally fine trying and eating all different foods in the presence of the therapist but I could not, for the life of me, get it to apply it at home). After only two times we were successful in getting him to try new foods at home (those last sessions were for me to learn the techniques, not for him).  We now have various games we play that aid me in getting the task done.  He respondes well to incentives - and I'll tell you about that next time.

From Picky to Eater Pancake
First Pancake - He ate a little on this first birthday, but after this I could not get him to eat any more of it

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