Monday, April 02, 2007

Owen Eats! -Dinnertime


Looking back over the last months, we've come a long way from the days of counting Owen's ribs and cheering him on because he actually ate an 1/8th of a banana. Since Owen's feeding program began back in October, with Erin's gentle and persistent encouragement, we have watched Owen transform from a little boy who gagged at the sight of most foods, who might throw up when touching a food that jiggled, who wouldn't drink any liquid besides milk, or who could scream bloody murder if he was forced to sit at the table with a plate of food within his line of vision.... to a confident little man who will experiment and taste almost any food put in front of him. Owen now at least 'nibbles' freely from a list of nearly 20 foods that includes asian pears (apple-pears), the white of a hard boiled egg, grapes, strawberries, yogurt, pretzels and even suckers! -This is a kid who never eats anything sweeter than a banana. He also drinks 2 1/2 oz. of Ensure in every bottle of milk and this has definitely helped to add some weight.

In the course of five months we discovered (in passing) that Owen didn't know how to bite, therefor chew - his food. In working with Owen's aide and speech path, they have been helping him to work the jaw muscles and actually use his teeth to bite his food. How we didn't notice before is beyond me. But this new 'skill' has greatly increased the amount of food that he eats.

We also discovered that Owen can't, or won't, bend his neck backwards. We always noticed his little oddities of laying on the floor to drink his bottle, or the way he cocked his head to the side to look up at us, but it never occurred to us that it was because he couldn't tilt back his head. Jonathan noticed it one night while playing monkey in the middle with one of the boys. Owen sat in the middle, giggling and squealing with every ball toss, but whenever the ball flew overhead and not along his line of vision, he didn't follow it. With this discovery, we presented it to O's physical therapist, who proposed some exercises to build strength in his neck muscles. We're also pretty confident that the problem is not necessarily simply a p/t thing, but he definitely has proprioceptive issues.

*Proprioceptive System: The proprioceptive system refers to components of muscles, joints, and tendons that provide a person with a subconscious awareness of body position. When proprioception is functioning efficiently, an individual's body position is automatically adjusted in different situations; for example, the proprioceptive system is responsible for providing the body with the necessary signals to allow us to sit properly in a chair and to step off a curb smoothly. It also allows us to manipulate objects using fine motor movements, such as writing with a pencil, using a spoon to drink soup, and buttoning one's shirt. Some common signs of proprioceptive dysfunction are clumsiness, a tendency to fall, a lack of awareness of body position in space, odd body posturing, minimal crawling when young, difficulty manipulating small objects (buttons, snaps), eating in a sloppy manner, and resistance to new motor movement activities. (

...after a few months of exercising the neck and building trust to allow Owen to feel comfortable enough to let his neck relax enough to let it fall back a little, we are finally starting to see the subtle improvements. All this is to explain that this is partly the reason why Owen has never drank out of a cup. Besides the fact that he is attached to that darn bottle. Drinking out of a cup is being worked on in his program now as well as the re-introduction to other liquids such as juice and water.
What is so amazing to me is the difference in Owen's attitude around food. He is as comfortable eating new foods as he is spreading peanut butter on toast (that he toasted), mixing, stirring and cutting. Just look at this photo taken at the beginning of his program back in October. His expression clearly shows his disgust (although he was still willing to try), at dipping his finger in coloured yogurt.
Now check him out:

We are so proud of him and we're so grateful for all of Erin, Glen and Lyndsey's hard work. Thanks to them, meal time is much more enjoyable.

Dinner Time in our Household now:

All of this progress doesn't mean, however, that my job is any easier. It's actually harder. 4 different meals to be prepared at every sitting. But I grin and bear it (try to, anyway). Seeing Owen smiling at the table is our reward.

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