Does your speller tend to eat the same foods all the time? If so, this blog may be for you, and for them of course! Many apraxia bodies become habitual even if that’s not what the mind intends – the brain/body disconnect is at play here. Even the foods your speller eats can be loops, often developed from a young age. I have worked with many spellers who have goals to eat a new variety of foods. Have you or their CRP chatted with your speller about this yet? If not, there are numerous lessons that are food related that can open the door for such a conversation.
Now, say your speller does want to eat new foods, how can you go about implementing that with a resistant body? I am going to give you a few tips on how to help.
- Let your speller choose the foods they want to try. Sometimes the additional motivation of desire and autonomy can help the brain overcome the body for a short period of time. Plus, autonomy is so important and new goals should always be theirs.
- Keep in mind, and discuss with your speller, that different preparations of the same food can vary the taste and texture so you may have to try some different preparations to find the way they like it. A great example to consider is grapes – green vs. red, firm vs soft, large vs. small, room temperature vs. cold vs. frozen, or new varieties like the sweet cotton candy grapes.
- Use specific prompting just like you do with spelling and any other purposeful motor task.
- Remember that this will take time, practice, and repetition just like spelling and any other purposeful motor task. It is important to remind yourself and your speller of this so that neither of you get discouraged and can more easily retain regulation.
- Start small – have those foods in the house and if possible somewhere in sight for their body to get used to it.
- First goal may be something like just holding the food or grabbing and holding the fork.
- Then specific, repetitive coaching to lift the food to to their mouth
- Next, to put it in their mouth – “open your lips” “close your lips (once the food is in”
- They may need prompting to chew their food and a visual cue like a hand under their chin to help them keep their head up and chew instead of spitting it out may help.
- Be realistic with your starting goals and what may be accomplished each time. Work with your speller on these and have an open and honest conversation.
- Check in with your speller frequently. Remember to keep it broad and don’t ask yes/no questions. Ask questions like:
- How do you feel about it?
- Just checking in.
- How is it going?
- Is there anything that you would like to share?
- Remember not to judge their likes or dislikes based on the body’s reaction. In fact, let’s hear what a speller has to say about that:
“MY BODY GAGS WHEN I TRY NEW FOODS. IT DOES NOT MATTER IF I LIKE IT OR NOT. FOR NOW I HAVE ASKED FOR COACHING THROUGH THAT. WHEN I GET THE CHANCE I TELL MY CRP MY OPINION ON THE NEW FOODS. I WILL EMPHASIZE THE FACT THAT MY BODY DOES NOT REFLECT MY MIND 80 PERCENT OF THE TIME. DO NOT GIVE UP!” -Ben
- Finally, be regulating and confident. This is key in coaching any motor task. We need to presume competence in the body just as much as we do in the brain. Any motor task can be accomplished if you find the right place to start and break it down into small enough steps. Remember, no one sits down at a piano their very first time and flawlessly plays Beethoven.
Here is a quote from another Speller on how they have found success in trying new foods:
“THE KEY TO TRYING NEW FOODS IS PATIENCE, BOTH MY OWN AND MY MOM’S. SOMETIMES I GET FRUSTRATED WITH MY BODY. THAT IS NOT THE TIME TO TRY SOMETHING NEW. WAITING UNTIL I FEEL CALM AND NO PRESSURE IS BEST. TRYING SMALL CHANGES TO FOODS I ALREADY EAT IS SO HELPFUL. FOR EXAMPLE, I LIKE PRETZELS SO I HAVE BEEN TRYING DIFFERENT FLAVORS OF THEM. SMALL STEPS OFTEN TURN INTO BIG ONES.” -Caden Rainey
If you find something that works, it’s always great to share it with fellow Spellers and CRPs. I love hearing new ideas that I can implement and share with other people. I am wishing you and your Speller all the success!
Katlyn Billue is an S2C Practitioner, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, and Mentor for I-ASC. She loves working alongside the spellers as a motor specialist to accomplish their goals!