Bright green, shiny apples. They must have been speaking pretty loudly in order to get Stevie’s attention amidst the cluttered kitchen.
Stevie doesn’t eat fruit. Or vegetables... or protein for that matter. He’s a crackers and cereal kind of kid with his super restrictive and self-imposed diet on top of a few food allergies that restricts him even more.
Stevie has autism, which includes a heavy dose of Sensory Processing Disorder. He stopped eating all but a handful (literally) of foods between 18 months and 2 years of age. Restrictive eating is a very common symptom of autism spectrum disorder.
But the other day as I was picking up some toys my 3 year old had strung across the floor, I happened to glance over at Stevie.
He looks at me with that look that says, “I’m doing something and I might get in trouble for it so I’ll hide it.”
“What are you doing, Stevie?” His look begged the question.
“Eat the apple?”
“Are you really going to eat it? As in, put it in your mouth and sink your teeth into it kind of eat it?”
He puts it up to his mouth and bites just enough to make an indentation as he continues to look at me.
I watch a tiny drop of juice dribble down the side of the Kermit-colored apple. I see him sneak a taste and I wonder what he thinks of it.
“Eat it. Goodbye Mommy!” (This is his tactic to get rid of us when he wants to do something he isn't supposed to.)
I honestly didn’t think he would eat the apple. Usually, if he has a piece of fruit, he plays with it until it is destroyed into looking like a decomposed bruised and mushy mess.
But this apple must have been begging to be tasted, so Granny-Smith green and tart. And that one enchanting droplet of juice just sealed the deal for him.
I leave him alone for a minute and return to spy him biting all the way through the crisp green skin, chewing, swallowing and biting again as he contemplates this new experience.
Not only did he eat the one apple, but he asked for another one and ate that too!
And not only did he eat an apple for the first time in years, but he ate it whole! In the past, it had to be cored and cut in thin slices and he’d eat just the middles. But this time? He sat at the table like the 10 year old that he is, and ate the apple whole. One big teeth sinking sensory bite after another.
It was a beautiful sight.
I always thought he’d eat new foods (eventually) in the same accidental way that the chocolate fell into the jar of peanut butter to create the concept of the first Reese’s Peanut-butter Cup (or so the commercial led us to believe) and he’d realize that other foods really do taste good (and that maybe it is ok if foods touch)!
Maybe this is the start of a sensory turn-around in the food department. Stevie started this life as extreme sensory aversive and defensive, but in the last few years he's been experimenting with more things in a sensory seeking style. So maybe this next couple years will bring some experimenting with food!
Now It's Your Story Sharing Turn:
For those of you who have a restrictive eater, how do you introduce new food or encourage him or her to taste something new?
What was the turning point in your child's eating behavior if they have successfully expanded their diet?
For everyone else: Don't you just want to go eat an apple? Remember to send up a toast to Stevie when you take that first bite!