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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Oral Defensiveness – once bitten, twice shy

This is one feature of my youngest son. On the whole, he refuses all ‘new’ foods. A few of years back, my older son, who is also autistic, had a play date with his chum, a typically developing twin. This fully verbal child had energy, enough to spark my child into action. There were few words between them as they spent the majority of their time wrestling. [translation = roughhousing.] These two five year olds ‘played,’ until snack time, when all four came to the table. At this time junior only "ate three things," but we seem to have been working on this forever.

Very occasionally, approximately once or twice a year, he would snatch food from someone else’s plate, stuff it in his mouth and then promptly spit it out again, with accompanying screams.

The friend immediately noticed that junior had a bowl of Goldfish, but not the fruit and chocolate chip cookie that everyone else had.
“How come he doesn’t get any?” he asked immediately.
“He dun like it,” offered his brother, as both boys have speech delays. His friend was not convinced, so I backed him up, “that’s right, he doesn’t like cookies, but he really hates chocolate chip ones.” His eyes narrowed in the knowledge that he had caught an adult in a lie.

The snack continued. The friend decided that there was a conspiracy afoot and so asked him directly, “do you want one?” Junior rarely responded to questions verbally or otherwise. On this occasion, his response was to shade his eyes like a visor and lower his head, so that the vision of the cookies would be obliterated. The friend asked again, louder this time. My son squashed his nose onto the table cloth so as to close his nostrils from the stench of the cookies. The friend glanced in my direction, a quick check to see if the coast was clear. I decided to let nature take it’s course.

“Here, just give it a try. Everyone likes cookies. These are the best. You’ll like them.” Junior squirmed in his chair, became more compact, smaller. “Come on. You’ll love em,” he persisted. Junior curled himself into a nut, the smallest hamster in the world, invisible. “Hey! What’s wrong with you? Eat it!” he commanded waving a cookie at junior’s posterior. He tried a new tactic. “I know, if you eat this cookie then I’ll give you a………” He faultered, perplexed. “Eat this cookie and then you can go and play.” It was a nice try, but was the wrong lure, indeed I was a little short on lures myself. I waited, fascinated. “Eat it now or you’ll go straight to bed without any……” I suppressed all nerve endings to ensure that my face remained neutral. Those tired old phrases each came out, one after another, all of them. They’re the words that parents have been saying since children were invented.

Junior unfurled just enough to allow his tentacle of a arm to reach up to the table for another handful of goldfish. The friend wrenched the bowl away, lay on the table and dangled his own arm like a fishing line, in front of junior’s nose. The cookie waved back and forth, “come on, you can do it, I know you can, just a little bit…..” junior snapped at the cookie and bit off a chunk. It was so fast that the fisherman flinched, sprang back and retracted his arm at the same second that junior exploded like a jumping jack, caterwauling at 50 decibels, hands frantically scraping cookie crumbs out his mouth before running to the faucet to wash the inside of his mouth. The friend watched mesmerized, as junior drowned and gurgled under the flow of water, ripped off all his clothes and hurtled away to hide.

The friend was a statue, eyes like saucers, his body rigid, at attention. He relaxed, lost his stupefied look to add, “he really doesn’t like cookies does he?”

I assumed it was rhetorical.


KAL said...

Ha! Sam hates, hates cookies. Well, he does like plain, flat arrowroot ones, but chocolate chip cookies have to much bumpy texture for him. Wow, could he possibly be my child? :)

Anonymous said...

I managed to get my eldest to eat 5 peas last night. I've decided to wage war on veggies but to be reasonable about it. A few, every day.. he has to eat his meat and potatoes to get dessert, now we're adding a few - up to 5 for now - pcs of cooked veggies.

The youngest I can sometimes shovel some in, but lately we're having food wars again. But I think he's stopped growing... he's not eating nearly as much as he use to.

Loved the story... still giggling.


Haddayr said...


Sueblimely said...

You write so well that I still have tears in my eyes from laughing at this incident.

Fragile X son at age 6 was persuaded to blow out candles on his birthday cake which meant he actually had to get close to cake.

He had got to the stage where memories of unpleasant taste experiences prevented him from being able to even look at foods that caused nasty reactions in him.

Wonderful I thought, another hurdle overcome. WRONG. His candle blowing turned into a vomit that covered the cake and the shoes of the girl next to him.

After many years of no birthday cake, I now compromise by doing interesting things with do-nuts which, having a different texture to ordinary cake, he can tolerate.

With age he can cope with more sensory stimuli - not sure if this is just because of the amount of exposure to it or improved sensory integration. I still have to be aware though of psychological aversions, caused by prior incidents which caused him distress or embarrassment. For example, garlic which he now loves in food. He can make foods with masses of it in and eat it but he cannot tolerate the smell of it in a restaurant. Any Italian restaurant we go to has to have an outside eating area.

Anonymous said...

ha! i really enjoyed this entry. My Leo also has oral defensiveness. And will only eat tomato based dishes, with vegetables, and either beef or chicken. very very healthy but limited diet.

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