Just a few short months ago, I blogged that I would sell a major organ to see Brooks eat a vegetable. This week at dinner, my son turned to me and very matter-of-factly asked: “Can I have more broccoli, please?”
My husband and I shot each other that incredulous look that autism parents treasure, sharing a “did he really just say that?” moment.
One of the reasons I’m so over-the-moon about this particular success is that I made it happen: I designed an intervention, I implemented it, and, miraculously, it worked. No, I take back “miraculously.” It worked because of the years of careful training I received from my son’s extraordinary therapists over the years. They may not come to the house a few times a week anymore, but they continue to propel Brooks forward all the same.
This “vegetable” thing was not an easy one to crack. Although Brooks is a good sport about trying new foods (smelling them, licking them, taking a small bite), when faced with even a tasting portion of a “non-Brooks-approved” food on his plate, the meal becomes an uphill battle.
Playing to his strengths, I focused on his love of routine. Here were the new rules: every dinner would now include tiny portions of one fruit and one vegetable, on a separate plate, that Brooks had to eat. He could help choose that fruit and vegetable, he could eat it with his hands, and he could even choose specific parts (cucumbers without the seeds, cauliflower stems). And when I say tiny portions, I really mean tiny: four small diced squares. Fairly quickly, Brooks was into it. He looked forward to choosing the foods and most often finished them.
These days, when my husband comes home from work, phrases like “Daddy, I finished my eggplant and tangerines!” are not uncommon, and always accompanied by a beaming smile.
As I continue to gradually increase the portion size, Brooks is becoming a better and healthier eater. And a more adventurous one! Although I never want take-out to be a staple of his diet, I’m thrilled that he is even exploring these dishes when a home-made meal isn’t feasible.
In a future post, I’ll write about another recent intervention that worked remarkably well: teaching Brooks how to get dressed independently. WARNING: If you’re bothered by inside-out underwear and backwards shirts, do not try that one at home.