Saturday, October 30, 2010

31 for 21: A bit more about feeding Braska

There are a couple more things I wanted to touch on, and I thought that Cate’s question regarding this post was an excellent place to start…

I totally hear you on patience. It's hard to go at someone else's pace. Do you have something to do while she's eating? I read your post thinking that it would be good knitting time. That's my choice for something that makes me feel like I'm not just waiting, but I'm still engaged and paying attention. (Thanks for the input and the question, Cate!)

One of the most difficult parts for me right now IS the waiting, but it’s a different waiting. Braska can feed herself with a spoon, but it’s very slow and she will only do one or two (rarely) bites at a time. And remember, we’re talking purees here… yogurt, mashed potatoes, blended meals…things that fall off the little spoon easily.

So there is a lot of guiding, assisting with proper hand position so she doesn’t drop the spoon, helping her get the spoon back IN the little bowl, etc.

One more clarification… at this stage, I do NOT blame the DS for her feeding issues. I don’t consider this a “DS thing.” She is so far past even the delays that can be typical-to-extreme for DS that I now don’t even give DS the credit for her issues. Yes, it was initially the heart defect that interrupted feeding progress, and yes, her very low tone plays a significant part, but I believe, and some of her caregivers agree, that at this stage, she is dealing with a combination of issues that outweigh the “kids with DS have feeding issues sometimes” philosophy.

Working with Braska on feeding is a very active task, yet with a lot of breaks, though they are short.

For instance…if she starts out with a blended meal of meat and veggies, she will usually—when prompted a couple of times—pick up the spoon and put it to her mouth. She doesn’t always get it in her mouth fully, but she’s getting better. But because her fine motor/hand strength is SO lacking, she has trouble even managing the spoon correctly and then moving her wrist around to get it in the right place. This is really work for her.

So after one bite, she will leave the spoon in the bowl. If it were up to her, she’d sit there for hours before she’d attempt another bite. Hungry or not… and she really doesn’t even register hunger in a realistic manner anyway. So I can prompt her to try again, “scoop and bite” as we call it, and SOMETIMES she will do it again. Mostly she will just look away and ignore me.

I generally will take over for a bit, feeding her, and she accepts the food relatively well. We wait several seconds, if not 25 or 30 sometimes, between bites. I reload the spoon right away and hold it out in front of her, ready for her to move toward it and open her mouth. But there’s still the waiting. She needs the time to clear her mouth and be ready for the next one. I offer the next bite, and she will either take it or she will say, “Nofankyou” in her oh-so-polite-but-not-budging manner. Then we either try another something, like offer a bite of yogurt instead of her “entree” food, OR we attempt a drink.

Drinking is a more difficult situation. She does not like to take sips. And when she does drink, that’s all it is. It’s very much an art to getting the cup held/tipped in just the right manner so the milk is at the rim of the cup, because when she opens, you have about 0.0003 seconds to get something in there before she closes again. Occasionally she will be more willing to accept a little, but mostly she prefers not to mess with a drink at all.

And yes, we’ve tried every cup, bottle, straw contraption, and other possibility out there… I’ve got boxes of barely-used items to show for it.

Once she tires and won’t cooperate to assist with the meal any longer, I take over and feed her the rest. This doesn’t mean that she’s suddenly happy, like she got her way not having to feed herself, she STILL doesn’t want to eat. But she is getting much better about accepting food by mouth when I feed her, and her pace is picking up.

So you can get a picture of how it goes. It’s not really feasible to DO anything in the midst of the process because I’m always doing something even if there are little tiny pauses. She is not in a place where I can be near but not involved.

Very rarely, in the morning, when she’s eating yogurt—her favorite thing, if there is such a thing—she will feed herself 6 or 7 bites over several minutes while I’m preparing Kinlee’s breakfast. But it will always come to the point where she just won’t/can’t continue, so I help her finish.

Now let me be clear about something important… This process I describe is frustrating and hard, it’s taxing on her and on me, but we are FAR ahead of where we started, and though the going is slow—VERY slow—we ARE…SHE is… making progress, and I’m very glad about that.

But I hope this helps you get a picture…where she is on the spectrum of “feeding issues.” Many kids have problems with feeding, and the issues vary greatly, but when someone says to me, “Oh, I get it, feeding is hard. My kid will only eat grilled cheese, spaghetti, fruit, or crackers, and just drinks milk all the time,” I understand the frustration, but I have to chuckle a little inside, because we are still YEARS from that level. She still does not know how to chew. Period.

Each challenge for each kid is real, it’s a hill to overcome. In this particular area, our hill is just really long and steep.

But she’ll get there… if I can just hang on for the ride.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really glad to hear that Braaka is making progress!

    I know you've tried tons of different things to help Braska...but I was wondering about adapted utensils?

    padded handle - angled spoon-

    Flexible handle-

    Spoon with raised sides to prevent spills-

    flexible cutlery-

    spoon with hand strap-

    really neat steady spoon that i just had to put on the list-

    pediatric clip on spoon-

    I know that one is for elderly people, but you never know what will work

    I hope one of these might be useful :)


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