Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Sensory Side of Feeding Therapy

This post has been a long time in coming.  Almost 6 years.  

Owen's feeding issues were present at birth.  He did not "regress" into poor feeding.  I was a new mother, had no experience, and no idea that there was something wrong.

We started feeding therapy in January of this year.  It has been the most difficult therapy so far- gains are small, effort is enormous and it takes it's toll emotionally.  I'm sure that sounds strange.  But it's a difficult thing for me to put into words.

This child is frightened of food.  Scared he will choke.  Terrified he will vomit.  He is so uncomfortable with eating that he will gag and retch watching YOU eat.  It's complicated.  It's painful to talk about.  It breaks my heart.  I may require years of my own therapy to come to terms with it.  It is the ONE thing that I would do anything to change for him.  Anything.

Our feeding therapy is multifaceted.  There are sensory issues (like textures, temperature), physical issues (like coordination, strength, motor skills)  and organic issues- absence of appetite, food sensitivities, a year of dental pain and generally not feeling well.  These are all topics that I will revisit in future posts.  For today's #TherapyThursday post I will focus on some of the sensory aspects of feeding therapy.

Favourite Stop
Honey Bees at work
The first step for us was gaining a comfort level with food.  This means many trips to grocery stores, markets and restaurants.  Big family dinners, sitting at the table as much as possible.  Allowing him to come and go as much as required- but still setting limits and time lines.  We started with 5 minutes.  Now he sits for twenty. I spend a lot of time thinking outside the box.

“Think left, and think right, and think low, and think high. Oh, the things you can think up, if only you try!”  Dr. Suess

Sometimes, we have do things a little out of the ordinary to reach our goals.  Let's talk about chocolate sauce.  Personally I cannot imagine NOT wanting to dip things into chocolate sauce, but that's the O-man's style.  He would not believe me when I said it was chocolate sauce. Hyperlexia has its advantages.  Read it Owie- it really is chocolate sauce!  But he was wary.  For two weeks I gave him a small amount in a bowl for dipping.  Nothing.

So we tried a different approach. Painting.  It worked best when I taped the paper to the wall in the bathtub.  I filled the tub with about 2 inches of water so that he could wash it off if he needed to.  He was still wary, but he was comfortable in his space knowing that he could get clean.

I showed him the bottle a number of times, and reinforced the idea that it was chocolate by having him read it.

And suddenly, out of nowhere, he puts the paintbrush into his mouth.  I know it sounds silly, but it took every ounce of control I could muster to control my tears.  He put a paintbrush into his mouth!  Six months ago he would have gagged just looking at a paintbrush.  Keep it together Mama, and keep moving forward.

We moved from the paper to a large cutting board.  I squished out a large blob of chocolate and showed him how to finger paint.  He sloshed it around a few seconds, and then decided that it would look better on his belly.  Mommy, will you make a face on my belly?  Together, we drew funny faces, sad faces, happy faces and angry faces.  Over and over again, until the water in the tub was chocolatey brown.

Funny, I never pictured the colour of success as chocolate.  But that day, it was.

Success, no matter how small, is worth celebrating!

I plan on writing a post every Thursday for the next little while to give you a glimpse inside our lives.  Thursday will henceforth be known as Therapy Thursday, and I hope that you will join me.  Post a blog, or tweet about it using the hashtag #TherapyThursday.  Feel free to post a link below in the comment section!  Remember that there are many different types of therapy- Occupational, Physical, Feeding, Speech Language and Behavioural to name a few.  I hope it will serve as yet another way to spread awareness of special needs!

From the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists

"Occupational therapy is the art and science of enabling engagement in everyday living, through occupation; of enabling people to perform the occupations that foster health and well-being; and of enabling a just and inclusive society so that all people may participate to their potential in the daily occupations of life (Townsend& Polatajko, 2007, p. 372)."

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