The more you eat, the less flavor; the less you eat, the more flavor. ~Chinese proverb
Today is Independence Day, a day that involves celebrations and food – hot dogs and hamburgers, corn on the cob, apple pie, and watermelon. Last year, as in years past, my older son didn’t eat any of these foods, but this year was different; this year he ate three bite-sized pieces of watermelon.
On Tuesday, my older son completed his 8th appointment for Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) Treatment at LPCH Stanford. The appointment went well, and I felt better after the doctor reassured me that despite how slow the treatment looked and felt to me, my son was doing well in the program: over the past three weeks he has gone from eating a small nibble of a tiny piece of watermelon, to eating a bite-sized piece. We are making progress.
The doctor was correct: the process feels painfully slow, but I can see the small changes that are occurring with the combined treatment of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for ARFID (CBT-AR) and Neurotherapy. As a result, my son has committed to tasting small amounts of simple foods and practicing at home with watermelon. He is starting to mix foods and yesterday, tried pasta on top of a piece of sourdough bread – something he’s never done before.
Last week, both of my sons a week-long Boy Scout camp at Camp Oljato, over four hours away from home. In years past, he would head off to camp with a week’s supply of his “safe” foods. The camp has over 300 campers each week and the kitchen are equipped to handle campers with special meal requirements – but this year, my older son went off to camp without any of his “safe” foods.
“I’ll be okay, Mom. I will figure it out” he told me confidently as he and my younger son got ready to leave.
I didn’t receive any “Come and get me” phone calls from camp. I didn’t receive any calls telling me my son was having anxiety or stomach issues. It wasn’t until my sons returned home seven days later that I found out the camp cook quit on the third day of camp, there was concern about whether there was enough food to feed all the campers, and that my older son was going hungry.
During their week at camp, my younger son, who had always teased his brother about his picky eating, stepped up to the plate and helped quell his older brother’s anxiety about meals at camp. He got my older son to try mashed potatoes as well as oatmeal. He got him to eat a full plate of fettuccine alfredo and hunted down watermelon each evening to ensure his older brother stayed on track with his commitment to eating watermelon each day. My younger son showed such empathy and kindness toward my older son that week; I think he finally realized the impact ARFID was having on his brother.
Hearing my boys tell about their experience at camp made me realize how our family is making strides in how we are helping m older son manage ARFID and how we all need to work together.
Last Independence Day, my son wouldn’t have touched watermelon with a 10-foot pole; this year, it is now part of his daily meal. I can’t wait to see where he is this time next year. Maybe he will be eating hot dogs and hamburgers. Maybe he will be eating corn on the cob and apple pie.
I have no way of predicting the success rate of his treatment, but I do know that he is trying and he will get there, one bite at a time.