After a nice long weekend away and Vermont with my love, I am excited to be back online working on some fun blog posts for the week.
First up- Food Training 101:
This is one of my proudest teacher moments as of yet. My student had only been eating Apple Cinnamon Nutrigrain bars and milk for the last TWO YEARS- yup you heard me- two. And before that it was only Nutrigrain bars of any flavor since age 4.... he is now 9.
This obsession had become narrower and narrower as time went on. He would only his bars off a certain plate, then only when broken up in a certain way, then with no crumbs on the plate. As time went on, the tantrums over the circumstances of the bar became larger and more uncontrollable.
After my first parent teacher conference with the parent. I discussed my concerns over the issue and the narrowing consequences surrounding his meals. His Dad agreed that something should be done but was very concerned that he would regress further. I promised that if he gave his permission, I would not force feed but introduce foods paired with rewards slowly, until he voluntarily put the food in his mouth. He agreed and my program began the next day
STAGE 1. Introduce preferred foods in different ways
For my student, I started introducing his bars on different plates, then broken up differently, then had him break them up himself, and finally had him open the packaging AND break them up on his own ( he would not take a bite from the bar).
STAGE 2. Introduce new foods of similar consistencies near preferred foods
During this stage I would put similar foods (muffins, other bars, cookies, apple flavored things) near and then on his plate with his preferred food. He would usually throw or move the food off his plate, and I would ignore the behavior and simply replace it until he would tolerate the food on his plate.
STAGE 3. Touch NEW food - for preferred reward
Hold back preferred food first during this stage, allow them after training session instead. For my student I used cinnamon munchkins. A flavor he knew and liked and a consistency similar to his bars. He would receive one minute of iPad time (using the SPORTSTIMERS I featured in a previous post) for touching and then picking up new food. Previously he would not touch, other than to throw, any other foods. During this stage he would pick it up as I counted to 10 and then drop it and receive his reward. Soon I was able to count to 20, 30, and so on.... when I knew he was ready for stage 4.
STAGE 4. Touch NEW food to lip- for preferred reward
Using the same process, ask the student to bring the food to lip and hold it there for a certain number of seconds. I started with 3 seconds for 30 seconds of iPad time and increased the amount of seconds he would hold the food to his lip each time. Soon he was holding it to his lip for over a minute.
STAGE 5. Touch new food to tongue- for preferred reward
Same process as above but with touching to tongue. I suggest letting the student lead the way on this one. Usually after touching to lip and getting a little taste, they will bring to tongue on own. Never force a child hand during this process. I used a lot of modeling and a lot of reward time for even getting close to the tongue. After a while when I took away iPad he knew own his own it was time to touch food to tongue!
STAGE 6. Place food on tongue- for preferred reward
After achieving stage 5, I had my student leave the food on his tongue while I counted. As you can tell counting REALLY worked for him. He didn't want me to stop counting to he left it there! This stage he let the food fall out of his mouth many times. He did not earn iPad till I was done counting and had to put it back in his mouth ON HIS OWN and I started the counting over.
STAGE 7. Leaving in mouth!
Once I was counting to over 100 he began to just leave the food in his mouth, and even started shutting his mouth quite a bit. This is the stage where the food starts to disintegrate in his mouth and he really began tasting the flavor ( AND LIKING it, since he didn't spit it out!) I would count up to 300 before there was nothing left but saliva ( which he would usually wipe off his tongue when he got the iPad).
STAGE 8. switch up foods
After he was leaving the food in his mouth till it was almost gone, I began putting a variety of like foods on his plate. When it was gone he would get the iPad for 1 minute. I would then take it away and he would pick up a new food. He would usually choose the smallest piece, EVEN if it was different than what he knew he liked.
Next, I will try to speed the process up by distracting him while he is eating, getting him to move the food around in his mouth, and stimulate chewing. I will give an update as he progresses!
*** DISCLAIMER: I NEVER FORCE FEED: it commonly has regressive effects!***