A Parent’s Perspective: The Journey of Feeding & Mealtime

As I watch Elizabeth eat her dinner and salad.

And I gently remind her to eat slowly…again.

I am made aware that that is our biggest work now…  to continue encouragement to eat neatly and slowly.  

For those who know Elizabeth, when she is hungry, suffice it to say, she is more concerned with NOT being hungry anymore and enjoying her meal than the whole neat thing. I wish I could say this fast eating comes from her special needs, but in truth, I think she comes by it naturally as I am a fast eater. Suffice it to say, she is a work in progress on this one with some days being way better than others.

So back to the salad. As she is crunching away with some lettuce jumping on to the table, I am brought back to the biggest challenge when she was younger with feedings and that was getting her to use utensils.  

Forks and spoons were really seen as optional to her.  She liked using her hands to eat. Unless it was ice cream and in which case, she made an exception!

For us, the food variety was not a challenge for her. Chewing and swallowing were not an issue.  It was actually about the act of feeding herself.

For those who don’t know, Elizabeth special needs include global dyspraxia and sensory processing disorder (SPD). Her disorders affect her life each and every day.  

And it is her dyspraxia that makes learning new skills very hard as it is a motor planning disorder.  It can affect fine motors skills, gross motor skills and oral motor skills. Dyspraxia can even affect memory and the ability to initiate a skill or even remember the steps to complete the skill.  Pretty much, dyspraxia is quite the intricate thing and since Elizabeth is globally affected, she has all the above and more signs of dyspraxia.

Dyspraxia affects new skills like holding a fork or spoon. This has to be broken down into steps and taught. 

As does learning how to scoop the food and finally learning how to get it into her mouth.

These skills, like all skills for Elizabeth, must be broken down into steps, practiced and practiced. And then, repeat the above again and again until she is successful.

When she was younger and offered a spoon or fork with her meal, she would pick it up. Fiddle with it, put it back down or we would put food on the end of the fork
and hand it to her, she would have that bite then put the fork down go back to eating with her hands. Why?
Because it was easier, and she didn’t have to work so hard to be successful. And she didn’t have to think so hard to get a bite and enjoy the food she was trying to eat.

And it got to such a point that we were just happy that she used a spoon for eating spaghetti and applesauce.   And even to this day she still mostly eats her spaghetti with a spoon once it has been cut so it actually fits on the spoon.

As time went on and we continued working with her on these skills, she got more adept at using these utensils. 

She is now 26 and does well with her fork and spoon but dyspraxia does not quit so there are days that a spoon is still the preferred utensil and that is okay.  And as for the knife? She CAN use one but honestly, it can go well sometimes for her and other times, not so much.  And that is okay too.


Because we will just keep working as we have done prior and will continue to do.

And because we understand her and how she works.

And because we are so proud of the work she has done and continues to do each day.

It takes knowing your child to know what it is they need when it comes to the arena of food, mealtimes, and feedings. 

 As I always say. I’m not an expert except when it comes to Elizabeth.

See you next month!

Michele Gianetti

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