Thursday, January 31, 2013

One Bite at a Time

Oh, the coordination involved in feeding oneself! 

Most of us don't think about all of the movements involved in getting food from the table to our tummies (sometimes I wish I gave it more thought, but that's a story for another day!). We move our hands, our arms, our tongue, our lips. It truly is a full body experience. It's difficult for Elijah to move his arms, to use his hands and to control his mouth and tongue; it is difficult for Elijah to eat. 

We've had an amazing occupational therapist coming to our house to help Elijah with his oral motor and fine motor skills during lunch once a week for about the past year. He has improved so much in that time.

On Wednesday Elijah fed most of his lunch to himself in occupational therapy and we were beyond proud. His OT and I sat there with mouths dropped open and eyes beaming. He was doing it. 

The problem is, Elijah often won't do things for me that he will do for therapists. It's understandable because I'm his mom. Would you want to do something incredibly hard in order to eat if you were super hungry? Yeah, me neither. Especially when you know that the people who love you most won't let you starve.

Tonight, I offered Elijah his fork and he so politely handed it back to me (that's a change too, in the past it would have been tossed to the floor). I decided to make a deal with our boy. 

"Elijah, mommy will feed you two bites and then you need to at least try to take a bite on your own," I told him. I talked about how grown up he is getting.

And so I fed him. And so Elijah also fed himself. 

This is a big deal. Not only because he fed himself, but because he clearly understood me. I've been noticing this a lot more lately. He grumbled at me at first, continued to give me back the fork and whined that I was making him try when for so long now we've just fed him. In the past, me trying to get Elijah to feed himself would often escalate into full blown fury. I had to be careful how I approached self-feeding or mealtimes would be miserable (and they often are anyway for other issues). A little whining is a step in the right direction.

I'm well aware that we have a long way to go until he's completely independent in the feeding department and that there will be days when he completely needs our help. Some foods he simply can't do on his own and that's okay. Even a few bites is a big deal, especially since he did it for me and not someone else. A BIG DEAL. He's doing it and we'll keep pushing. 
Getting the fork to his mouth

Great lip closure on his fork!
Lips closed and chewing
I may have shed a few happy tears tonight during supper. I am so not going on his dates with him. 
Oh, and little brother is learning to eat too!
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