Thursday, February 21, 2008

ABA and Lunch

When applied behavior analysis was suggested for Thane, my knee-jerk reaction was no way. Part of that stems from my brother and knowing that ABA, regardless of what the experts say, makes a lot of use of negative feedback or aversives. This is not my style nor Dave's.

There are many things that simply have not been worth the fight to me . . . meaning that I haven't really wanted to push him to the point of unhappiness about any behavior. That doesn't mean I don't react to him throwing toys or something (the toys get a time out away from him until he is calm), or that I think every minute of his life will be shear happiness, but I don't want to create conflict where there doesn't need to be any. Who cares if he doesn't wear clothing at home? Who cares if he lines up his cars? It's all about picking battles . . .

I also completely understand that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We do the best thing we can think of at the moment, hind-sight makes us question our choices, and how we react in the future evolves from what has worked and what hasn't.

Thane had gotten very difficult about eating meals, or eating much variety. It wouldn't matter much to me if his choices were pretty well-rounded, and if he didn't expect to eat half grapes and stick them to the furniture. He can eat a half grape if he puts the rest in a discard bowl, but the floor and furniture was just too icky. We want him to try new foods. I know this hardly seems like a crime, but he is 4 years and 2 months and has never even let a piece of pasta into his mouth. I am sure he would like it with some toppings that he enjoys, like tomato sauce, but he won't let it past his lips.

We gave the ABA guy a try because we were getting nowhere with potty training. Then he basically got the concept in a day, no pee accidents within a week, off the timer in less than a week, etc. So it worked. The first day was awful, then it turned easy.

So we decided to address the wanting Thane to eat at the table and actually finish a meal rather than eat two grapes and cry for more food in a half hour. We wanted him to eat more foods and not always be a separate meal. I wanted him to try some of the products of our efforts to make some pretty darn tasty gluten free, egg free foods (he does have dairy and some soy again). We have allergies to work around too.

The therapist suggested first a plan for eating at the table, finishing the food on his plate (which Dave is really uncomfortable with since both of us parents have a weight problem and Braeden is gaining too fast). This plan has taken as much as 5-6 hours a day to implement. It got easier for a bit, but then fell apart because of parental failure. We were sick of it!

We tried again and we had lunch with the therapist on Wednesday. It was horrible. He didn't think so, but I really felt like I was torturing my son to get him to eat a bite of waffle. I had to physically keep him in his chair. I didn't do anything that would hurt him physically; in fact, I was doing all I could to prevent him from hurting himself. I found myself thinking that maybe I should just let him live on waffles, apples, grapes and cheese after all. Maybe he doesn't need to sit with us or finish a meal on anyone else's schedule. But how will that work if he goes to school? Gets a job? And we do have the added complication that he really cannot have gluten. Gluten damages the insides. It makes him very sick for the short term, clumsy, he has trouble speaking, etc. He does need to have some guidance around food issues.

I was told I did well. I stayed calm. OK, maybe on the outside, but inside I was yelling I want to stop. NOW! So where does one go with this. Physically he is OK. Emotionally he still loves mom and hangs out with me (the webcam videos were a few hours after our ordeal). I don't want to do this anymore, even if yesterday was totally rare. It still happened and it was more than I can handle. I felt so mean. I love my kids to pieces and I know I have to correct them here and there, but this is different to me somehow. Like I am turning something small into a battle.

I'm glad he and I had so much fun later on (and Braeden too, he was laughing really hard while watching Thane watch the videos, because he says "Hi!" to them constantly). I hope I don't have any more days that make me doubt my decision to try this therapy. It's hard because eating a meal is not punishment (and a meal can be one bite) to most of us, but I guess Thane disagrees.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Bec, I agree that you have to pick and choose which things to address. To me it sounds like eating might be something you can let go of. You talk about the pros and cons. The cons sound much stronger than the pros. So what if he goes to school and only eats one food. Does that really matter? Enough to put Thane and your family through all this? And if he has a job and has very particular Thaneisms.... so.
My husband works with a guy who has a lot of "oddities", for example he won't wear any jewelry including a watch or a wedding ring, there is a ton of food he won't eat and has to have everything he does eat in a particular way.
This comes up often at lunch and also when they are away on a project (and so eating almost all meals together for weeks at a time). So he has things about this that are a bit different, it doesn't matter. He's just another guy, who they all like very much, but he's got some "quirks". So it takes an extra minute for him to order at a restaurant as he talks it through with the waitress, it doesn't really matter, ultimately.
Maybe it's something you can let go of, and find another battle to fight :)

Melissa R