“It Only Takes One Time for Something to Become a Pattern”

by J

“It Only Takes One Time for Something to Become a Pattern”. This was recently told to me by S’s OT, in response to some recent feeding issues we have been having.

I will back track a bit, so that you can get a better idea of S’s eating habits. From birth, S always ate great. At six months, S started solids and he was a champion eater. We did a modified version of baby led weaning and he took to most new foods, new textures and new flavors favorably. The only ‘baby food’ we ever really served him were those pureed veggie pouches- mainly because they were organic and convenient for travel and keeping in the diaper bag. He not only ate all sorts of things, but he had a taste for health food and would often snub ‘treats’- opting for watermelon over cupcakes, etc. Then, like most kids, he became a toddler and the usual toddler pickiness entered the scene. No biggie. Our pediatrician warned us about this and assured me that he would eat when he was hungry and that as long as he continued to grow, he was fine.

However, a few months ago, I began to notice a pattern. S was slowing dropping past favorites (pizza, spaghetti, grilled cheese, etc) and was seeming to prefer either foods that were dry and crunchy (dry cereal, crackers, pretzels, nuts, etc) or purees (smoothies, those veggie baby food pouches, yoghurt etc). In fact, the only thing he would really eat in between those textures, was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It hit me- my child is 2.5 and still eating like a baby- dry cheerios and baby food pouches. I brought this up to his teacher and she confirmed that S’s eating habits were likely regressing and he seemed to be developing a texture preference.

So, for this and a few other sensory reasons, S started occupational therapy to help introduce him to a wider variety of foods. I wasn’t too worried though- while his menu was limited in texture and variety, it was rich in nutrients. Its not like he was living off of chicken nuggets and soda. He ate low sugar, organic cereals and home-made veggie and fruit smoothies. He drank organic soy milk and overall, preferred healthy foods.

Then, S got sick. So sick that he vomited for 4 straight days, while sleeping on the couch, only waking to puke. He did not eat for 5 straight days. When his appetite finally returned, it was just for crackers and pretzels. And I was fine with that- the kid just puked for 4 days- he needed time for his tummy to settle.

But, it was too late. It only took the one sickness, a few days of eating crackers, for a pattern to develop. Now, now he only wants PB&J and cashews. He is snubbing his cereals, his smoothies, his soy milk. His OT has been working with him for several weeks now, and we are making progress. S will now tolerate non-preferred foods on his plate and will even touch them to get him to put them in his ‘all done bowl’. It is so interesting how quickly something can change and become a new pattern. It happened with bath time, with hair washing, with shoes, and now with eating and food preferences.

For now, S is starting to tolerate some of his old foods again- but still snubbing most. Hopefully soon he will regain his pattern of healthy eating, and in the meantime, we will still work with OT to reintroduce his old foods and slip in a few new ones.

And I guess that is one of the crazy things about autism. Kids on the spectrum are very routine oriented. Like most kids, they thrive on consistency and predictability. However, kids on the spectrum tend to become more rigid with the need for these routines. So, it really does only take one time for something to become a pattern, and you never really know what the next thing is going to be. That’s autism for you- every day is a new normal.