Planning for Holiday Meals with a Picky Eater

Nov7

 

As an SLP  focused on the treatment of pediatric feeding disorders,  there is one common denominator among all the families on my caseload:  The stress in their homes at mealtimes is palpable.   Now that Thanksgiving and other food-centered holidays are approaching,  the anticipation of an entire day focused on food has many parents agonizing over the possible outcomes when well-meaning relatives comment on their child’s selective eating or special diet secondary to food allergies/intolerances.

This time of year, I try to find practical ways to reduce the stress for these families.   One of the first steps in feeding therapy is for parents to lower their own stress level so that their child doesn’t feed into it (pardon the pun).   I often address parent’s worries with a “What IF” scenario.  I ask, “What’s your biggest fear about Thanksgiving?”   The top 3 concerns are as follows:

What IF Junior won’t take a bite of Aunt Betty’s famous green bean casserole?

It’s not about the bite, it’s about wanting Aunt Betty’s approval.   Focus on what Junior CAN do.  If he can sprinkle the crispy onion straws on top of Betty’s casserole, call Betty ahead of time and ask if he can have that honor.  Explain how you would love for him to learn to eventually enjoy the tradition of the green bean casserole and his feeding therapist is planning on addressing that skill in time.  But, for now, she wants him to feel great about participating in the process of creating the green bean masterpiece.  If Junior can’t bear to touch the food because he is tactile defensive, what can he do?  Pick out the serving dish perhaps and escort Aunt Betty carrying the dish to the table?  Taking the time to make Aunt Betty feel special by showing interest in her famous dish is all Betty and Junior need to feel connected.

What IF Grandpa Bob reprimands Junior for “wasting food” or not eating?

Keep portions presented on the plate quite small – a tablespoon is fine.  Many families use ‘family-style” serving platters or buffet style, where everyone dishes up their own plate.  Practice this at home.  It’s not wasting food if Junior is practicing tolerating new foods on his plate.  That food went to good use!  If Grandpa Bob grew up during the Great Depression, this might be tough for him to understand.  If he reprimands Junior, change the subject and tell Junior your proud of him for dishing up one whole brussel sprout! That requires some expert balancing and stupendous spoon skills!

What IF Junior gags or vomits? 

Not surprisingly, this is the one sensory reaction that most relatives sympathize with and try desperately to avoid.  Preparing the host ahead of time is gracious and appreciated.    Preparing your child is helpful too and Stress Free Kids.com offers these tips.  I recommend that parents identify what stimuli is most noxious to the child and talk with the host about those, offering assistance in preparing special food or supporting the host’s planned menu as much as possible.  Bring a change of clothes for Junior, just in case, as well as a quiet activity for him to enjoy if you sense that the meal may be just too overwhelming for him.  Plan other activities that don’t involve food to emphasize the message of the season: Being grateful.

Gather together with thankful hearts.  That is the theme for this year’s Thanksgiving.  Let go of the fear and ask “What IF Thanksgiving went just fine?”  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, treats children birth to teens who have difficulty eating.  She is the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids and the producer of the award-winning kids’ CD Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs that Celebrate the Joy of Food!  Melanie’s two-day course on pediatric feeding is  offered for ASHA CEUs and includes both her book and CD for each attendee.  She can be reached at Melanie@mymunchbug.com.

How to Use The Language of Baking

1031

Do you want to spice up your therapy sessions? Try this no fail recipe for pumpkin brownies. They are moist, full of chocolate flavor and absolutely delicious. You will not miss the additional oil or eggs in this recipe. There are only two ingredients, which make it easy to make and fit into a therapy session.  Whenever I bake during a therapy session, I try to focus on very simple recipes so that more time could be spent on speech and language goals. When you try to create a recipe that is too complicated, you can get lost in the activity and lose sight of your speech and language goals.

From my perspective, language and baking naturally occur together. Children really enjoy baking because it can be a stimulating sensory activity as well as language rich activity. When baking in a group, pragmatic language goals can be easily targeted (topic maintenance, turn taking, appropriate topics, etc).

The ingredients in this recipe do not need to be refrigerated and are easily found at any supermarket. They are also very affordable and yield about a dozen brownies! With no added fat, they are much healthier than the normal brownie. Also, the brownies do not contain any additional eggs or oil.

Ingredients:

1 can of pureed pumpkin (15 oz can of pureed pumpkin, not pie filling)

1 box of brownie mix (I used chocolate fudge brownies, 19.5 box)

Sprinkles or topping of your choice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Wash hands.
  3. Grease 8 X 8 inch square pan.
  4. Open brownie box and pumpkin can.
  5. Combine pumpkin and brownie mix in a bowl.
  6. Stir until smooth.
  7. Pour batter into greased pan.
  8. Sprinkle batter with topping of your choice (I used 3-4 tablespoons of sprinkles).
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes or until done (till toothpick comes out clean).

10. Cut and let cool.

11. Eat and enjoy!

pumpkin brownies

Ten  speech and language goals that can targeted during baking time:

 

  1. Sequencing. Work on “first, then” and have the child retell the steps to the recipe in the correct order.
  2. Following Directions. Work on one- to two-step directions (e.g. “open the box and pour in the brownie mix”).
  3. Asking For Help: Create situations that a child needs to ask for help such as opening the box of brownies or opening the can of pumpkin.
  4. Expanding vocabulary. You can expand the child’s vocabulary by focusing on new vocabulary such as cooking utensils, ingredients, appliances, etc.
  5. Turn taking. This recipe is excellent to do in a group. Each child can take a turn pouring the ingredients into the bowl, stirring the mixture together and pouring it into the pan. Use a turn card when baking so that each child knows when it’s their turn.
  6. Describing. Have your client describe the ingredients focusing on what they look, smell and feel like. Have the child taste the pumpkin and describe the flavors. Discuss the colors of the ingredients and toppings (if you are using). Does the pumpkin look smooth? What does the brownie mix feel like? What does it smell like?
  7. Actions: Focus on actions such as, “wash,” “open,” “pour,” “combine,” “stir,” “bake,” “cut,” “sprinkle,” “eat,” etc.
  8. Choice making: Baking time is an excellent opportunity to improve choice making such as choosing what step they would like to do, what topping they want, etc. Although the recipe seems very simple, there are a lot of opportunities for making choices.
  9. Recalling information/narratives: Ask the child questions such as “What did we do first?” etc. Ask the child to tell you a story about “making pumpkin brownies.” When you are baking, take some photos with your phone or camera (if you have written permission) and use the photos to recall information and create a narrative. There are many wonderful apps out there that are ideal for creating stories with photographs. Don’t have an electronic device? Have the child draw a story about the pumpkin brownie activity.
  10. Pragmatic language goals: When baking together, pragmatic goals can be worked on. Discuss appropriate and inappropriate language and behavior when baking. If you are baking in a small group, help facilitate conversation between peers and encourage maintaining appropriate topics of discussion.

If your client is nonverbal or minimally verbal, create a communication board so they can communicate during the activity.

Carryover Books: Try reading some of these books after making the brownies together. These books can help carryover the concept of pumpkins and baking.

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? By Margaret McNamara

Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin Pie by Jill Esbaum

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael Kaplan

It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse! By Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond

Carryover Activities: Bring in a small pumpkin and decorate it during a therapy session. Each child can take home a small pumpkin that they decorated themselves.

Becca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor, and parent of two young children, who began her website www.gravitybread.com to create a resource for parents to help make mealtime an enriched learning experience . She discusses the benefits of reading to young children during mealtime, shares recipes with language tips and carryover activities, reviews children’s books for typical children and those with special needs as well as educational apps. She has worked for many years with both children and adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings including schools, day habilitation programs, home care and clinics. She can be reached at becca@gravitybread.com, or you can follow her on Facebook; on Twitter; or on Pinterest.