Holy Thursday, It’s Dinner Time!

These days, every meal is like “The Last Supper” as far as Brian is concerned. His appetite is voracious, with a bottomless pit that never ceases to amaze! Puberty and youth are the perfect storm for such a siting. I remember those days so well when I could eat like that and never gain an ounce, ah, to being young like that again! Brian has certainly inherited my capacity for mass quantities of grub, for better or for worse. 

Once upon a time, Brian couldn’t be in the same room with different textured foods, let alone eat them. He would scream bloody murder at the mere suggestion of some new food , no matter how small or how far away it was on the table. I was both horrified and fascinated at the same time- how can this kid not like toast or pizza? Forget about cake or cookies at that time. And don’t even think of offering the generic version of Cheerios- only the original will do! How can one make THAT differentiation?! There were many days that I  thought Brian was  destined to eat Cheerios, French fries, and yogurt for the rest of his life. Despite our best efforts, nothing seemed to be working. It was so frustrating! I was really concerned Brian would be more prone to illness, with such a limited diet at that time. He had already been struggling with multiple sinus/ear infections, and colds.

But like everything else in Brian’s life that is “ new”, as far as he was concerned, he required LOTS of time and small pieces of evidence in order to be convinced that “it” is OK, acceptable, and in this case, tasty. So, we did many food “trials” over the years, ever so slowly, and with lots of practice, patience, and behavioral reinforcements. We began to make some progress over the years, continued to expand upon our success, food by food, bite by bite. When adolescence arrived, Brian’s hunger increased, and he was more motivated to try new foods, despite the visual and tactile sensory aversion to them. Somehow, he seemed to gain some self-confidence too in this culinary journey. Now, he has no “off button” for toast or pizza, or several other foods for that matter!

Don’t get me wrong- Brian will not automatically eat any  “New” food-even now. He continues to be quite wary of its appearance, very tentative of its texture/flavor, BUT, he will at least try the smallest of bites. He has really come a long way from the meal meltdowns of not so long ago. I understand more why this is so- not only do some children with special needs have sensory challenges with eating, but people with Down syndrome in particular, have chewing challenges due to their low muscle tone and compromised  oral/motor musculature. As a result, they have a heightened “gag reflex”and are more prone to choking. We often have to remind Brian to take small bites, chew his food, slow down, etc.  Our kids like to sometimes “stuff food”- it feels good to do so! ( I must confess to the group that I love to stuff a stack of Pringle’s potato chips in my mouth- there is something about that Big Crunch/Flavor that is so appealing!).

Brian still does not eat ice cream ( too cold), candy of any kind ( the texture does not agree with him),or fresh fruit, ( the “slimy” texture causes him to gag, yet he loves many veggies, go figure!)but unlike the old days, I am much more relaxed about his eating habits. At some point, he will probably LOVE ice cream and candy, (where we could have another problem!)and he may even one day be willing to eat an apple slice. In the meantime, there is applesauce, and he will eat mandarin oranges or mashed fruit in yogurt. I’ll take whatever he is willing to try!

Good nutrition is paramount to a strong immune system, but there are also excellent supplements to support our picky eaters when their diets are limited. There is always hope for improvement in this regard, but we parents have to give ourselves (and our kids) a lot of slack, regardless of the outcome. Heck, my  older neuro-typical brother is  still a picky eater (especially with veggies) and somehow, he has made it through life just fine! Quite frankly, we have too many other fish to fry with our kids that requires our undivided attention and energy. Speaking of fish, Brian remarkably eats salmon now, so you just never know how or when our kids will surprise us with their food choices.

Brian’s willingness to try and eventually enjoy new foods over a long period of time has also coincided with his ability to now sit with us ( and extended family  and/or friends) during meal times. We are now able to go out to restaurants and actually enjoy our meals together. No more crying at the dinner table or being prisoners at home because we had to leave the restaurant, me in tears often along with Brian. I know many of you can relate to these things and can appreciate how incredible these accomplishments are. The highs are higher and the lows are definitely lower in our world!

And what a better time for our kids to enjoy culinary delights, regardless of what they are, than this upcoming weekend, as many of us will celebrate Passover or Easter with family and/or friends. One of life’s greatest pleasures is to sit and enjoy food  with our loved ones, a ritual as old as the hills. There was a time that Brian could not sit at the table during the holidays, but that too, has become a thing of the past. He does not linger too long after eating, in fact, he gets up, pushes his chair in, then proceeds to watch TV or play with his iPad, just like the other kids…❤️❤️

Wishing everyone a very blessed holiday this weekend and much success on their food journeys with their children, one bite at a time….

Until we meet again, thanks for reading! 😊❤️

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