Persever8ing about…asking for help

self-advocacy

In my opinion, both as a parent of children on the spectrum and as an autism professional, one of the hardest thing to teach a child with autism is how to ask for help.  There are many reasons for this.  First, they need to realize that they have people in their life who want to help them.  This requires Theory of Mind.  Also, they need to have the understanding that there could actually be a solution to their problem.  This is especially difficult when you are upset (you need to have the ability to calm yourself when you’re in this state, which can also be difficult for a person with ASD).  Finally, every person with autism has aspects of their thinking style that can make asking for help difficult.  Even people who are not on the spectrum can struggle with this for various reasons.

Recently, my son had a difficult experience at university.   The power went out over much of campus and he had a hard time dealing with this.   Because of the outage, one of his classes was cut short.  This would be a happy accident for most students, but not for my son.  He’s frequently anxious,  so I’m sure this situation started the process of him becoming dis-regulated.  When he left his class, I have no doubt that he was a little “off.”

Later, he went out to pick up his dinner.  The place was  closed because the power was out there, also.  I am sure this added to his anxiety.  That evening, I called him  to see how he was doing;  his response began like this, “Well, here’s the thing…”   Never a good way to start a conversation!  The end result was that he had an apple and mini-donuts for dinner on top of having  an all-around tough day.

We live about two miles from campus.  My son knows how close we are.  There are MANY takeout restaurants in town.  My son knows this.  I thought he knew that we would help if he was hungry or needed some support in getting his dinner, but maybe I’m wrong.   I know it isn’t the end of the world if he misses a meal, but that isn’t the point.  Why didn’t he ask us for help when it’s so apparent to us that he needed it?

Now, I have a new plan.  We’ve decided to talk about each day’s events using the terms “expected events” and “unexpected events.”  This is a concrete way of discussing what happened without labeling situations as “good” or “bad.”  (I find that using a positive language to describe events helps keep his anxiety at bay, which helps him stay calm)  The new rule is that when something unexpected happens, he has to let us know about it.  Then, we talk about how the situation could be helped by asking for help.  Hopefully, this will avoid “you should have” or “why didn’t you” conversations, and instead offer opportunities to practice making choices and recognize where there are opportunities to ask for help.  Stay tuned…

Persever8ing about…Workplace Etiquette and Mutual Accomodation

blog picture april 1

Persever8 self-proclaimed March workplace etiquette month.  We made our social media posts this month relevant to the topic of workplace etiquette.  This topic is important to us because we know that keeping a job is just as hard for a person on the spectrum as getting that job in the first place.  Most people on the spectrum don’t lose a job because they can’t fulfill the requirements of the position.  It is their behaviors that generally trip them up and cause them to lose their job.

It occurred to me that if we practiced mutual accommodation more, that is, each party meeting the other half way, there would be less misunderstanding and less reason for a person to lose their job simply because they don’t understand the social rules, or find it hard to follow social rules that don’t make a lot of sense to them.

Since my children were diagnosed with autism 20 years ago, I have been on a one-woman quest to educate the people around them about their disability so that their behaviors and statements will be understood from the perspective of autism.  I have found that this has helped them in immeasurable ways, especially for my younger son, who is less able to speak up for himself.  Since he was in the third grade, we have made brochures about him and his autism and shared it with classmates, teachers, therapists, babysitters and anyone else he comes in contact with.  For the past several years he has been involved in putting it together so that it truly reflects who he is and not just my perception of him.  He gives it to his professors, counselors, the RAs in his dorm and the people he works with.  Sharing this information with the people around him takes the “mystery” out of who he is and makes everyone, including him, more comfortable.

My son has a part time job in data entry and recently his supervisor left to take a new job.  When I found out about this, I was concerned that his new supervisor might not know how to react to sharing an office with someone who may or may not answer her questions, who might make noises while he works, or fail to greet her when he gets to work or leaves work.  Since I work in the same building, I went to introduce myself to the new supervisor and dropped off one of my son’s brochures so that she knew what to expect when he arrived for work later that day.  When my son was finished working for the day, he dropped by my office and gave me a piece of paper.  On it was essentially his supervisor’s “brochure”, with details about herself and she pointed out the things that she and my son have in common.  They both like the Simpsons, mythology and cats, among other things.  He was so excited to know this about her and it made him feel comfortable with her from the first day.  I don’t believe anyone had ever taken the time to share information about themselves in this visual way to him to make sure that he also felt comfortable.  This wasn’t a person with a lot of understanding of autism, simply someone who took the time to make sure that they were on the same page.  He didn’t have to be apprehensive about her and she didn’t have to be apprehensive about him.

I truly believe if more employers would meet people who are different half way, there would be fewer problems on the job for people on the spectrum.  I’m sure that my son doesn’t have perfect workplace etiquette – he doesn’t understand all the rules – but at least the people around him have an understanding about why he doesn’t always do the exact right thing, and they also know that he would appreciate help with what he doesn’t understand.

Persever8ing…about “The Way it Is”

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When my son was in middle school, I was very involved in his school and volunteered for lots of committees. This was very selfish on my part. I wanted to spy on him in a way that would be natural and unobtrusive. I learned a lot about his behavior in his “natural habitat”. I also learned that he does things that seem odd. For example, when moving between classes, he would hold his binder and books on his shoulder, rather than across his chest. I don’t know WHY he did this. It made no sense. It couldn’t be more comfortable, or more efficient. His elbow stuck way out and I’m sure he poked people all the time with it. There is no way he ever saw anyone else carrying books this way, so it was a puzzle to me. After observing this more than once (the first time I saw it I thought there might be a good reason for it), I asked him about it and his response was that he didn’t know how to carry his books because no one ever showed him how to do that.

This was a real confirmation for me of what I already knew. He isn’t going to learn by example, so I really DO have to teach him how to do things, both at school and other places. I started making a list of the things that he could get away with when he was younger, but were no longer cute, since he was basically the size of an adult.   I made a binder of social stories over the summer before high school and called it “The Way It Is”. It was sort of a hidden curriculum that was tailor made for him. The other thing it did was instead of just telling him “the way it is”, like many books about social skills do, there was an explanation of why this was the way it is. When something would come up that was covered in the binder, I would remind him about it and go over it with him.

We knew as parents of young children on the spectrum that they don’t learn from their peers like other kids do, and it was up to us to teach them to play and to have conversations and what they can do to make friends. This can be exhausting at first because there are so many things that they need to learn. What I was reminded of in observing my own child as he got older is that this doesn’t really change. They still don’t always learn from watching their peers. Or sometimes they TRY to be like their peers and they fail miserably at trying to be cool and trying to fit in. There is nothing sadder than a young person with autism trying to be a hipster and just missing the boat enough that it makes them look even stranger than if they hadn’t tried.

So how to continue reminding them of these social rules as they get older? It gets tricky because you don’t want to be that mom that micromanages their young adult child. Informing starts to look like nagging. My solution is to let the electronics take over via Instagram. With the tag #persever8, every Wednesday, we post #thewayitiswednesday and list these hidden curriculum rules with a photograph or cartoon to help explain the rule. The hope is that kids will see the rule and discuss it with someone who can explain further. We do pull it up at dinner sometimes and I ask my son if he has any questions about the reason for the rule. It has been nice to see that friends of his are beginning to look for our weekly posts.

I’m hoping that this will be a resource for young adults on the spectrum that helps them remember the social rules. The pictures will probably stick in their heads more than the words will, but hopefully they can access this when they get into situations that are difficult for them. It is a way they can use social media (as they see their peers doing) to help them navigate life.   I know that when I remind my son of the social rule, he can act appropriately. My hope is that eventually he won’t need to be reminded and he will act appropriately on his own.

How do you help your children with ASD learn social skills? What challenges do you face as your children get older? Other parents’ perspectives are always welcome here.

Persever8ing…about letting go

Willson Library

When my son transferred to the local university in the fall after graduating from community college, we had a talk about becoming more independent. We knew the transition to a four-year university would be challenging, so we told him that he could settle in for his junior year, but that we strongly recommended that he live in the dorms next school year. Making choices is very difficult for him, so we new that we had to plant the seed because he would never come up with this idea on his own. Or if he did, he would never tell us about it.

During the fall, he had the opportunity to visit a friend of his at her dorm a few times. After each visit, we asked him if he would like living in a dorm at his school. His responses went from “I don’t know” to “maybe” to “probably” over the course of several weeks. This was as much of a commitment as we would ever get from him, so we made an appointment at the housing office at his school. Apparently at his university, students are leaving the dorms in droves to save money in off campus housing. This turned out to be good news for us, because there were many choices, and a single room was not a problem. He actually made a choice! He wanted to live in the dorm where his brother had lived several years ago and was willing to do it in January.

The idea of moving out of our home was a BIG deal for my son, but just as big of a deal for his father and I. We had originally said he would move out next fall, but this was going to happen in just a few weeks. I was so excited that he chose to move out sooner, but that meant I also had to change my mindset from him moving out next August, to him moving out this month!

Over the holidays, we started gathering things from his room that he wanted to take and started buying things that he would need. This pile of things in the kitchen helped all of understand the transition that was going to happen very soon. This wasn’t going to be the same as when his brother went off to school. The dining hall would be too loud and crowded, so where and what would he eat? How would he deal with having to carry a key everywhere he went and would he have the skills to figure out how to get back in his room if he locked himself out? Lots to think about.

When move in day came, it was pretty anticlimactic and matter of fact. We took him and his stuff over and he moved in. We had a plan for everything we could think of and had to hope for the best. The first night was strange. I was worried, but knew he was safe. When I texted the next day, it took a while to get a response, but he did respond. When I talked to him the next day, he said he was fine. We made plans to see him mid week and he seemed fine. He won’t say anything, but he would rather be at home. It would be much easier for him to be at home, but that won’t help him become independent.

It has been two weeks and we are all still alive and coping. We all understand that as hard as this is for all of us, it is only the first step towards independence. It is a time to practice problem-solving skills, a time to learn how to spend the lonely hours and a time to try out new things and move outside our comfort zones. It is a good thing for all of us.

Persever8ing…about self advocacy

self-advocacy

My son graduated from community college in the Spring and recently began studies as a junior at a local university.  He has always been happy to have me know about his studies and how he is doing in class, but it is hard for him to talk about it.  In fact he gets upset when I ASK him about it because it is so difficult for him to explain things to others, but he is happy for me to read his emails and look at correspondence between he and his professors.  This is a dilemma for me because I don’t want to spy on him, I’d rather he volunteered the information.

 

The other issue I have is that I don’t want to be THAT mom, who is constantly bothering people at the university about my son.  Even though he has signed the paperwork for me to be able to get information from the university, I don’t think professors appreciate mommies contacting them to see how their precious babies are doing.

 

So, I thought that if I went to the accessibility office with him before school started and received documentation about accommodations, this would take care of most of the problem.  Sadly, this is not true.  For one thing, even though I have “permission” to email people at the university, the response to my email goes to my son.  The first time this happened, he didn’t tell me that he had received a response, so I assumed there was no response.  By the time he told me, it was too late to do anything about that issue.

 

Another problem is that even though the accessibility office gave my son a long list of accommodations that he was eligible to receive, HE has to be the one to advocate for himself in order to take advantage of any of the accommodations.  He has autism and this is one of the hardest things for him to do.  As a result, he receives no accommodations.

 

In community college, he rarely needed any accommodations as his course work was not much different than it was in high school.  When an issue came up, we dealt with it.  Otherwise, he was fine.  But things are different now.  Half of his classes have over 200 students.  He is definitely lost in the crowd.  He did self-disclose his disability to all of his professors and the teaching assistants.  So they MIGHT remember him in the sea of young adults, but maybe not.

 

He says he is doing ok.  He did say he “bombed” one Spanish quiz, but also said he realizes why and it won’t happen again.  In order to not go insane, I’ve decided to take a “wait and see” approach to this semester.  If at the end of the semester his grades have taken a nose-dive from his usual good grades, we will have to revisit the idea of accommodations and figure out how my son can better advocate for himself.  It isn’t easy for me to sit back and wait, but because each skill is so difficult to teach, it makes sense to wait and see WHAT is needed before stressing us both out with a lot of social stories and practicing when it may be that only one or two things are really needed.  Learning to advocate is a BIG skill and is best taken in small steps.  Here’s hoping that by the time he finishes school, he will have most of the basics.  Self-disclosure was only the first step.  There are many more to come.

Persever8ing …. about Mommy guilt

Allison and Linda run marathons together

All parents have guilt.  Am I doing enough for my child?  Do I spend enough “quality time” with my child?  Am I reading enough to my child?  I know everyone worries that they haven’t done enough for their child, but I would bet money that parents of a child with special needs worry more and feel more guilty about what they did or did not do for their child.  There have probably been studies about this, but I’m not really interested in empirical evidence.  I know that some might say I didn’t do enough, but I did do the best I could.

When my kids were little, I truly thought that every day had to be a “developmental extravaganza”.  I felt guilty at the end of the day if I didn’t feel this had happened.  Not like I can’t sleep because I feel so guilty, but guilty just the same.  I can’t sleep anyway, so feeling guilty or not doesn’t really change this.  Even when it was a busy day developmentally, I worried that there was something else I could have done to teach them one more thing.

The reality is, this is a marathon, not a sprint and even though my children are now young adults, the marathon is not over.  The fact is, it won’t be over for me until I am no more.  That sounds scary to say, but it is the truth.  Once I realized there would be no quick fixes and the day to day stuff didn’t make that much difference as long as you don’t skip too many days, I started feeling better about things in general.  Persever8ing about the autism 24/7 wasn’t doing me any favors and definitely wasn’t giving me enough objectivity to really understand what my kids needed from me on a daily basis.

Speaking about marathons, many years ago, I realized I needed to do something for me to give me some perspective, so I started running.  I didn’t have any intention of running marathons, but I found that running was a time that was just for me and a time that I could clear my head and focus on each mile rather than thinking about autism all day long.  This started helping me right away.  Running helped me regroup and prioritize.  Since I tend to eat when I’m stressed, I found that spending time running allowed me to stop stressing about the stress eating because I could keep the weight off.  I also started eating more healthily because I needed good quality fuel in me so I could do the running.  True to form, I started persever8ing about running, but I don’t see this as a particularly bad thing.  There are much worse things I could do with my time

Linda and her son after a race!

I’m now better equipped to handle the autism problems, have more perspective, less guilt and a better ability to see the big picture.  I realize running isn’t for everyone, but I think that even though it seems counter productive, being a little selfish about your own time leads to less guilt rather than more guilt.  I feel I do a better job making decisions with and for my children than I did when I was constantly worrying about doing the right thing.   I do run marathons and half marathons and I don’t feel guilty about the time I spend training.  Everyone does better when mommy is happy.

Persever8ing about … Service

This week, we’re using our blog to promote an event that you and your (adult) child with autism may be interested in taking part.  Next week, Persever8 is honored to participate in Activate Good’s 9/11 Day of Service.   We’re excited to spread the word about this special opportunity to honor those who were lost on September 11, 2001.  If you’re interested in volunteering, there’s still time to register for projects at https://activategood.org/911dayofservice2015.

9/11 Day of Service and Evening Commemoration

Date: Friday, September 11, 2015

Times: Daytime service projects occur at varying times between 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM; the Evening Commemoration begins at 6:00 PM.

Registration: Learn more and register at www.activategood.org

Location: Daytime service projects take place at various sites around the Triangle; the Evening Commemoration takes place at the Red Hat Amphitheater in downtown Raleigh.

Contact: volunteer@activategood.org

The fourth annual 9/11 Day of Service returns on Friday, September 11, bringing a multitude of ways you and your friends can make an impact for over 40 charitable causes in the Triangle area.

This year’s 9/11 Day of Service, coordinated by Activate Good with support from the local business community, aims to engage 2,000 citizens in acts of volunteerism and kindness. Citizens will honor those lost on 9/11 by helping out with projects like beautifying schools and community centers, packaging food for those in need, and more. More than 40 causes will benefit from volunteers’ work, including but not limited to Raleigh Rescue Mission, Note in the Pocket, Urban Ministries of Wake County, Carolina Tiger Rescue, Ronald McDonald House, and SAFE Haven for Cats.

Companies and groups are invited to adopt daytime service projects, and individuals are invited to register to volunteer during the day as well. Those who can’t participate in the daytime project are invited to participate in the 9/11 Day of Service Evening Commemoration and Service Projects that will conclude the day at Red Hat Amphitheater. The Evening Commemoration will kick off at 6:00 PM on Thursday, September 11. Volunteers can register for projects at https://activategood.org/911dayofservice2015

How You Can Help

You can help by participating in one (or more!) of the over 80 service project shifts taking place during this year’s 9/11 Day of Service! Visit https://activategood.org/911dayofservice2015 to view the list of service projects and register for the project(s) of your choice. Can’t help out during the day? Join us at the 9/11 Day of Service Evening Commemoration at Red Hat Amphitheater in downtown Raleigh at 6:00 PM for service projects, music, refreshments, and words from local leaders. RSVP for the Evening Commemoration at http://911eveningcommemoration2015.eventbrite.com

Spread The Word

Help rally 2,000 volunteers to make an impact during the 9/11 Day of Service! Here’s how:

  • Pick your favorite daytime service project from the list, then sign up, tell others, or do both!
  • RSVP for the Evening Commemoration + Service Projects … then invite your friends!
  • Are you part of a local club, organization, or church? Invite members to adopt a daytime service project, come to the Evening Commemoration, or both!
  • Print the 9/11 Day of Service flier and hang it in your office or other spaces!
  • Save / download the 9/11 Day of Service Facebook cover image or Post image and upload it to your Facebook page(s) to show support!
  • Tweet about the available service projects, the Evening Commemoration, or how awesome the live music will be (or all of the above). Tag @ActivateGood and we’ll retweet!

About Activate Good 

Activate Good is a nonprofit volunteer center that activates volunteers to help charitable causes in our local community. We connect individuals, groups, and companies to volunteering needs with 300 partnering nonprofits around the Triangle. Learn more and get involved at http://www.activategood.org . You can also follow us on Twitter @ActivateGood , or Become a Fan on Facebook!

Persever8ing about …… independence

This is something I ruminate about a lot.  My son is so very capable, but independent is not an adjective I would use to describe him.  He is on his way, but not quite there yet.  I have often wondered what skills should be taught at a young age that help a person become independent in adulthood.  Studies are continuing to show that the people with autism who are the most successful are not necessarily the smartest people, but rather the people who are more proficient in life skills.

As parents, we know that it is generally easier to do things FOR our children, rather than to TEACH them the skills they need to know.  This has nothinIn hindsight, I now know that the time spent teaching my son to do things was always time well spent, for a lot of reasons.  First, even though it is time consuming and involves lots of follow up and trouble shooting, once your child learns something, you no longer have to do it for them.  Also, in the long list of life skills that your child doesn’t learn on their own, anything you can cross off of that list is a victory for you.

Typically developing children tend to watch what their parents and other adults are doing and imitate them.  That is the way that most people learn to be independent.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way for kids on the spectrum.  Imitation skills are generally not strong in our kids, so in essence, we need to teach them most everything.  In my work with families with children on the spectrum, it is always exciting for me when families “get” that.  A light bulb goes off in their head and they realize that they need to get busy so that their child will be able to become more independent.

So, where do you start?  I have looked at MANY life skills and functional living skills inventories.  I have read many books about preparing for adulthood.  The conclusion I came to of a very good place to start is to teach your child to wake to an alarm clock.  Such a simple thing, but I’m amazed at how many parents don’t do this.  Waking up to an alarm clock is something that 99% of us do every morning.  It is basically the definition of starting the day in an independent way.

When we wake up our children in the morning, we are basically sending them the message that we are here to take care of their needs, they don’t have to worry, we will make sure they get everything done they need to do.  While this sounds nice and sweet and nurturing, it is not doing our children any favors.  If our children need someone to help them with the very first thing they need to do every day, why would we expect them to do other things by themselves?

When our children get themselves out of bed in the morning, they are taking responsibility for their day.  They are setting the tone, not us.  This is a big stepping- stone on the way to independence.  And such a simple thing.

Persever8ing…about grief

There are so many things we have to teach our children with autism that it seems we really only have time and energy to cover the essential topics. Issues as “heavy” as death and grief are not on the top of our lists until they have to be. Grief is a very personal thing and we all deal with it in different ways. Talking to anyone about it can be difficult, let alone a child or young adult on the spectrum.

My father died somewhat unexpectedly earlier this month. Fortunately, I was with him and my family in California when he passed away. Unfortunately, this meant that I wasn’t home to help my son with ASD deal with the death of his grandfather. My son usually doesn’t want to talk about anything but superficial matters, so it was very unclear to me what was going through his mind when we spoke on the phone in the days following my father’s death.

After my father’s passing, my mother suggested I take my son one of his grandfather’s Disney jackets or sweatshirts because my dad and my son shared a love of all things Disney. I chose something and took it home with me, although I had no illusions about my son actually wearing it. My son has a few “rules” about clothes: no logos, silkscreened images or embroidered pictures are allowed. When he was younger, I think this was a sensory issue. Now that he’s a young adult, I think it’s become a habit more than anything else. The sweatshirt I brought back from California has an embroidered “Grumpy” (from Snow White) on the front and back, so it breaks all the rules. When I gave my son the sweatshirt, his only comment was, “won’t people get the wrong idea about me and think I have a grumpy personality?” I assured him that he was not required to wear it and that it would be ok if he just put it in his closet and think about his grandfather when he saw it in there.

I guess I don’t know my son as well as I thought, because he’s been wearing the jacket nonstop since I gave it to him. I think it‘s his way of letting me know that not only is he thinking about his grandfather, but that he’s sad, too. We may not be talking about our grief directly, but it’s “out there”. In my work with people with autism, I’ve found that those who have difficulty expressing their feelings (about difficult subjects) communicate better when they can write things down. Many individuals who struggle to talk about most any topic can be quite eloquent when they put pen to paper. A great resource for starting this process is Catherine Faherty’s fabulous book, Understanding Death and Illness and What They Teach Us About Life. It is specifically for people on the spectrum and I highly recommend it. It covers just about everything relating to grief and illness in short story form; a “communication form” follows each topic so that the person with ASD can write their thoughts about the topic. At the end of each form, the person completing it has the opportunity to say what’s on their mind and/or ask questions. Going over this information with a loved one can lead to further “conversations,” both spoken and written.

Subjects in the book that are difficult to discuss but may be easier to write about include:

  • What if a person feels uncomfortable about visiting someone who is dying?
  • How do people react when someone they know is dying?
  • What does it mean when people say it is time to “let him or her go”?
  • What are some examples of the things that people may want to communicate before someone dies?
  • Do doctors put people “to sleep” in the same way as veterinarians put animals “to sleep”?
  • What happens to the body after dying?
  • What do people say after someone has died?
  • Why do people visit the grave, shrine, or keep the cremains of someone who has died?”
  • How can people continue to have a relationship with someone who has died?
  • How long will the grieving process last?
  • Why do people say the grieving “comes in waves”?

These are all hard questions. Using a book such as this may not touch on all the questions a person with ASD has, but it can open a dialogue. As my family continues to grieve my father’s passing, I’m going to leave the book in a place where my son will see it and see where the journey takes us.

Persever8ing … about the “beige” diet

When my son was about a year old, he would eat anything. Literally anything. I was constantly amazed at the foods he would try. He was such a good eater that people would comment on the variety of things he would eat. Around the time he turned 18 months old, he began removing foods from his repertoire. For no apparent reason, things he once ate were no longer appealing to him. A year later, he was basically down to the “beige” diet: French fries, chicken nuggets, crunchy crackers, cereal (no milk, of course, on the cereal), macaroni and cheese (sometimes), corn (maybe), a banana (once in a while) and a few other things. I couldn’t believe it! This was a child who had a rainbow of colors on his plate as a one-year-old. By the time he was two, he was down to a monochromatic, repetitive, non-nutritious routine.

As time went on, it continued to get worse. He didn’t eliminate any foods, but became pickier about what he would eat in each category. He stopped consuming any protein other than fast-food chicken nuggets (and I’m not sure if there is actually protein in them). His preschool put lunch in front of him every day, and every day he refused to eat it. I offered to send a lunch but the preschool was determined to get him to eat their food. It didn’t work very well, at least at first.

Needless to say, he was starving by the end of school. Every day, we passed a Burger King on the way home. He didn’t have any language at that point, so he would start grunting as soon as he saw the logo. In retrospect, it was probably a bad idea to indulge him, but I knew that he hadn’t had anything to eat since the dry Cheerios he had for breakfast, so we started the bad habit of stopping after school for chicken nuggets and fries. We even ordered extra on the days before Thanksgiving and Christmas so he would have something to eat when they were closed. Before long, the drive-thru employees all knew us.

We tried other kinds of chicken nuggets (including sneaking in foods that resembled chicken nuggets, such as fish sticks), but this was one rigid little guy! We had many talks with both the preschool and the pediatrician to see if they could help, but none of their ideas seemed to work. He continued to meet his health and growth milestones (and was even a little chubby, thanks to the fries) and was learning new skills, so I tried to convince myself that he was getting what he needed from the foods he was eating.

By the time he was four (and had some language), we decided it was time to try to “reason” with him. Basically, we decided that we would only stop at Burger King once a week after school. If he was hungry, he had to start eating the school lunches. It was even a goal on his IEP – “to eat school lunches by the time he goes to Kindergarten.” Very slowly, he got the message and began eating some of the items on his lunch tray. Even on the day each week that we took him to Burger King! By the time he completed preschool, he was eating the lunches regularly!

Unfortunately, this didn’t generalize to eating the same variety at home, but at least he was eating fruits, vegetables, and mushy things! I thought we were home-free.

On the first day of Kindergarten, he refused to eat his lunch. This meant a new plan had to be put in place. By this point, he was full of opinions that he could actually verbalize (rather than the previous grunting), so we came up with a strategy. He could choose what he wanted to take for lunch, as long as I got a report that he ate it. He participated in the creation of these lunches and he did eat them. In fact, he basically took the same lunch every day from the beginning of Kindergarten to the last day of high school. That’s ok, because SLOWLY but surely, he added different foods throughout elementary school (maybe one thing every couple of months). By the time he got to high school, he would eat most anything, but it took a lot of work and a lot of worry to get to that point.

I talk to a lot of families who are in the same place I was many years ago. My advice to them is to pick your battles and if your child is healthy, just be patient. (Easy for me to say now!) It paid off for us. We supplemented his diet with multivitamins, fish oil, and calcium supplements. It was part of “our deal”. Fortunately, all of these supplements come in kid-friendly form.

There is always going to be something for a mom to worry about. Having a picky eater is a challenge, but one that improves with time. Be patient, create a strategy, and know that time and consistency will help the issue get better.