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6 YO with eating and control issues - HELP!
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6 YO with eating and control issues - HELP!

I have a 6 YO DD with eating issues. DD was born premature at 30 weeks. Had oral motor issues due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids (adenoids) at age 3 (now removed). Major texture issues (would not eat anything with skin, crunch or mixed textures). Food allergies to dairy protein (casein, whey), eggs and peanuts and sensitivity to soy. As parents, we always put too much pressure on her to eat and she now has huge control issues (per psychologist) and very anxious nervous behavior at table. Distracting attention getting behavior at table forced us to allow DD to eat in front of tv which caused more problems. She is easily distracted, suspected ADD, eats when she wants on her terms and now in Kindergarten, does not eat lunch at table. She very lethargic at school and the more pressure we add, the worse it gets. She is a very picky eater - eats mostly chicken tenders, rice, pasta, seasoned beef, chocolate pudding and snacks but gets bored easily. We cannot sue Pediasure, Carnation Breakfast or Ensure due to dairy and she hates smoothies due to texture. We are currently trying all meals at the table with limited success. New rule is all meals at table. No talk of food at table. Trying to encourage conversation but DD is nervous, constant chattering, won't sit in chair, attention getting behavior. Once we correct behavior, the battle begins. Often eats 3-4 bites of meal. Often says she won't eat if she can't eat in front of tv. Trying to be casual but very difficult when we don't understand why she doesn't want to eat. What is best strategy to encourage her to eat and eliminate need to control food? Also, how to you address a child who doesn't eat because there are more interesting things going on? Time outs and withholding fun things has not worked.
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Avatar_m_tn
Different methods works for every child. If she says she won't eat if she can't eat in front of tv you could say you will NOT watch tv at all if you won't eat. But be consequent. And as you said you put too much pressure on her. When my daughter doesn't want to eat I'm not trying to force her. It won't work. Have you tried reward charts ? Maybe if she'll think about treat she will eat ?
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3189527_tn?1346670821
Did you ever let her not to eat but don't give her anything else until the next meal? And at that meal the same thing from the previous meal? I did it to my son and it worked excellent since I respect him that he don't want to eat (its his body so he can decide) and he really experienced what it is to be hungry... He was 1.5 y old when we start with this method. We have still problems since he's almost 5 y old now but it's limited and we try to see it normal and not to get angry. Since to pay attention to this will be also a win situation for him. Don't let yourself managed by her, you're the boss ;))))
By the way it also was very helpful to talk about the body, growing how we use food etc with nice books, maybe you can try it
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Avatar_m_tn
    The problem is that your child might have SIDS - sensory integration disorder.  And dealing with that is very different then just dealing with a picky eater.  I highly suggest you repost to our SIDS site - http://www.medhelp.org/forums/Sensory-Integration-Disorder-SID/show/1396
     Specialmom who is the CL for the site has dealt with this with her own son and has lots of good practical advice.    You also might want to check out this site to see if she has any others symptoms - http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-processing-disorder-checklist.html
    And speaking as someone who is also the CL for the ADHD forum, attention getting behavior at the table for someone of this age is kind of normal.  You mentioned the possibility of ADD.   I know that she has not been in kindergarten very long, but what do her teachers say about her ability to pay attention?  I have seen many posts about eating problems of ADHD kids, but typically it is due to the stimulant medications they are taking.  I really haven't seen much written anywhere about problems of eating caused by ADHD - doesn't mean its not possible.  But, it is important to know if she is on any meds.   Also curious if the eating problems are only at dinner.  How does she do at lunch and breakfast?
   I really understand where you are coming from.  Having a child born at 30 weeks makes one extremely protective.  And I am sure that you are even more aware/concerned of her eating habits due to the desire to see her thrive.  And, it possible that you may have gone a bit overboard - which would be very understandable.  I think that you need to figure out first it what is something driving this.  Its really hard to treat something if you don't know the cause.
   Second, I am a big fan of timeouts (if used correctly).  But, I can't think of anyway that a timeout would help a food eating situation.  For a timeout to be used effectively it must be done immediately.  Which means that if the child is not eating - she goes into a timeout - which means she does not have to eat?  And if its done after the meal - it won't work!  So I really think that you should post to Specialmom on the SIDS forum.  I have seen her post lots of very good ways to deal with eating that will work even if she does not have SIDS.
   There really is a lot going on here.  Apparently, you are seeing a psyc which is good.  I do wonder if you have any other kids (just to eliminate that distractor).
    You asked, "how to you address a child who doesn't eat because there are more interesting things going on?"  The real question is - is she not eating because of more interesting things going on - or is she not eating because of other reasons mentioned above?   So far we probably have more questions then answers, but ya gotta start somewhere.  Best wishes.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thank you all for the advice. Here is some more info. DD is our only child. Doctor suspects ADD because she displays more inattentive issues related to organization and executive function. She is well behaved in school and does well in a structured environment. She is easily distracted at the lunch table and more concerned with who is sitting next to her. If there is something more interesting going on, she is less likely to eat. That's why eating in front of the tv does not work. She would much rather watch tv. She is not on ADD medicine but has just been put on Prozac for anxiety. Eating behavior started well before the medicine though. When I asked her why she doesn't like to eat , she says because she's nervous. Probably all those years of criticizing her not eating a food behavior. She says eating at school is the same. All the staff is telling her to eat. We are now trying all meals at table. If she doesn't eat, she gets the next meal. It's only been 2 days. She woke me up at 4 this morning to tell me she was starving but when we mention the table she get nervous.
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Avatar_n_tn
A little more info: at the table she has developed coping strategies. We try to get her talking and she chatters non stop to avoid that food is in front of her. She gulps down her milk or juice and she can't sit still. Often tries to grab food off my plate. The second we criticize, the battle begins. She eats thee bites then pushes her plate away even though we know she is hungry. It's horrible to see what we've created by making food an issue. So if it's anxiety, how do we correct?
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535822_tn?1389452880
Yes many make an issue of eating, instead of allowing the child to eat at its own pace..I dont believe every child with the problems you speak of have a disorder ..I think that more helpful parenting would help
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973741_tn?1342346373
Hi there.  We've done some things that has been really helpful for my son regarding eating.  As mentioned, we've had plenty of our own battles.  My son also had motor planning issues and chewing was difficult.  He gagged and choked as a baby/toddler on solid food.  His motor planning issues were actually do to his sensory integration disorder.  Does your child have any issues with hand writing or other 'newly introduced' fine motor activities?  My son did okay but tended to avoid these things because they were hard for him.  All related to motor planning.

My son's sensory issues also involve tactile dysfunction.  That relates to eating in the exact way you mention ----  texture issues, hot, cold, smell.  All could cause my son to absolutly have a bad response to some food.  Also, he has 'gag memory' which is real and hard to overcome.  My son gagged on meat as a little one.  Now when meat hits the back of his throat, he has an automatic gag response to it.  It is kind of like when you throw up something---  that food is unappealing to you.  Sometimes even the thought of it can make you feel uncomfortable.  

My son has the added sensory issue of seeking input.  Orally is one of the best ways to get that.  So, he 'stuffs' which is actually the occupational term for it.  Stuffing food in the mouth to chomp down on.  Not too pretty to look at and we worked hard to break him of it.  
We have worked on eating for a long time.
Some things that we do regarding food is that I don't just say 'you have to eat this or else."  Just not realistic for my kid.  Instead, I work WITH him.  There is a great book called "Food Chaining" that goes through a technical way to get kids to expand their diet when texture and sensory issues are at play.   I will cut food tiny for him that he has gag memory for and if he gets down a little bit, I cheer for him like he ate a whole steak.  This is going to help remove the gag memory.  It takes time to erase but each little bite helps.  Even if he only has three tiny pieces at a meal.

Dipping, the sensory or picky child's best friend.  Ranch dressing, ketchup, barbeque sauce, salsa, cheese sauce----------  these are the things that help a child eat.  Offer it and make food look fun and appealing.  Bring over other kids who are going to eat these things as kids often will try what their friend or cousin try.  

I do supplement with vitamins and things like fruit smoothies with 'extras' (no one has caught the cut up spinach or carrot juice in their strawberry banana smoothie yet at my house!!).  

I also talk about adventure.  My kid likes Indiana Jones, the great adventure guy.  He'd not shy away from trying things, right?  So we have a 'trying bowl'.  I put something in the bowl that is new---  my son wants to be an adventurer and will take one bite.  More if he likes it but at least one.  And he loves the praise he gets when he tries things---  so he makes an effort.  

I also accept that he won't eat everything.  The kid doesn't like his food mixed therefore, a casserole for him is unrealistic.  I'm realistic about what will be successful and what won't.

Try getting a stretchy band like an exercise band and tie it around the bottom of his dinner table chair.  He can use his feet to push on it which keeps some kids in their chairs.  You can also buy one of those inflatable seat pads that will allow him to wiggle around without getting up.  

good luck!  I believe in making meal time a positive experience and do the best I can to make us all feel that way
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