One small step...
[Right: Amelia, wearing all of her favorite clothes at once, at her request. Some of the bottom layers can't even be seen. She wanted more, but we had to stop - partly because we couldn't stop giggling long enough to keep going. ]
One of the things we asked Amelia's school to work on with her was food. She has sensory issues that go well beyond "picky eater" - her diet was limited to foods of certain textures, and to a lesser extent, colors. We tried a wide range of approaches to expand her horizons, with only the tiniest glimmers of success. She was firmly stuck in a small sliver of the food spectrum: pretzels, cookies, chips, crackers, popcorn, Cheerios, and chicken nuggets. If it didn't look or feel right, she wouldn't even touch it, much less eat it.
We practically force fed her yogurt and/or applesauce every day, just because we were desperate to get a tiny bit of real food into her. We spiked it with NanoVM, a vitamin powder designed for kids like her, that doesn't give any off flavor or texture to the food.
But it was hardly a solution we were comfortable with. We tried serving her the same dinner everyone else was having. We tried taking her to a feeding clinic. We tried something they call food chaining - basically finding foods that were very similar to those she liked. We really weren't able to make much progress with that approach. We cringed at the thought of how slow the pace was for accepting new foods, and how little progress we were making toward the kinds of foods we actually wanted her to eat. What we had was a recipe for an overweight, diabetic, malnourished mess.
Notice the clever use of the past tense in this post so far. That's because a little over a week ago, we started getting notes home from the school: "Amelia ate some pizza today." Then, "Amelia ate her whole lunch, including a cheeseburger." Then, "We couldn't feed Amelia her ravioli fast enough today."
Wait... Did they say ravioli? As in, wet, slimy, not at all crunchy, ravioli?? Granted, school lunches are hardly a great diet, but compared to where she was before, it was huge.
The next day, I gave her a spiral noodle from some pasta salad that Lori had made. She touched it, then put it down. She picked it up. She carried it around for about five minutes. She touched it to her chin. Then to the tip of her nose. Then... she ate it. I went into the kitchen and picked out some more noodles. Her hesitation was gone. She ate them all and requested more.
At that point, I thought, what the hell - I gave her the pasta salad as is, complete with olives, broccoli, salami, the whole bit. Again she brought me an empty bowl. She ate everything? This was big. This was Revolutionary.
As it turned out, she didn't eat everything. On the floor under her chair, I found a small pile of olives and salami. But you know what? I don't really like olives all that much either. The key for me was that the little reject pile contained absolutely no broccoli.
Vegetables. She ate vegetables. And asked for more! My world was turned upside down. Lori was literally getting teary-eyed. I started making phone calls, screaming "Amelia ate broccoli!" to unsuspecting (and slightly bewildered) friends and relatives.
Since then, Amelia's tried all sorts of new things. As many as six or eight new things in a day. Not all make the cut, but I'd say we've had a (stunning) 75% success rate with new food acceptance.
Lori wrote a note to the school, thanking them for working their magic. We didn't know what they were doing, but whatever it was, it was working. Funny thing though - I ran into her teachers a couple days later when I was dropping off her glasses. They told me they hadn't really done anything. It just happened. All at once, Amelia started eating. It was all her own doing.
And beyond the obvious, it gives us hope that progress doesn't always have to be painstakingly slow - hope that every now and then, Amelia can make a great leap forward. It gives us hope for potty training. Or even... what if... what if one day she can learn to talk?
Of course, she may not pull this kind of trick again. And that's ok. We know the odds. But for this one we are thankful... happy... stunned... relieved.