At about the age of two and half, our son Drew began resisting a variety of foods that he ate on a regular basis. We noticed that he began to prefer salty and crunchy food and puree pouches. When discussing our concerns with friends and family, we would hear the same: “He will eat when he’s hungry”, “kids can be picky eaters”, “he will grow out of it”, and most often “well, he looks healthy.” Drew, while not eating well, was asymptomatic: proper weight, height, smart, and active. When bringing the issue to the attention of Drew’s pediatrician, we were told to stop buying the food and pouches that he was gravitating towards and again, that he will eat when he is hungry. This felt wrong and we asked for a recommendation for a nutritionist.

When meeting with the nutritionist for the first time, it began the release of: Are we not good parents? Did we do something wrong? Why does it seem like all other children eat something as simple as pizza? We were finally getting help. At the recommendation of the nutritionist, Drew began seeing an occupational therapist once a week for about three months. We ended Drew’s treatment with both the nutritionist and the therapist at that time since there was very little progress and we were not happy with their approach. We then decided to take the bit of knowledge that we learned from therapy and supplement it with books about picky eating and the concept of food chaining. We are smart people! We can turn this around! Drew was now close to five years old and not much had changed. We knew we had to start over and look for another nutritionist.

Our new nutritionist recommended that we see Smita Joshi at Assential Therapies. Both the nutritionist and Smita were about 45-minutes away from our home but we were willing to make the appointments work to help Drew improve his diet. Going into the first appointment with Smita, we had a mix of optimism, desperation, and the dream of Drew eating a piece of fruit that was not in puree form. To our surprise, Smita had Drew eating a chicken nugget within the first half hour of our meeting. In shock and with relief, I burst into tears.

This began our feeding therapy journey with Smita, who we believe is a miracle worker and refer to as our “food whisperer.” Logistically, it was not easy. Drew’s appointments were in the late afternoon due to school and work, and as such, we were constantly adjusting our schedules, taking the Metra train, or doing our best to breathe deep while driving in rush hour traffic. There were periods of time when Drew would make significant progress, and then he would hit a plateau, and not want to touch a piece of food in therapy – sometimes for weeks. We worked with Smita to find the root of the problem. At times, the investigation process felt overwhelming, but we knew it was necessary in order to find a solution. If we ever began to feel frustrated, we knew that we could not stop therapy. It was working, if sometimes at a slower pace, and we were committed.

Doing the feeding work at home takes practice and patience. It is not always easy to stay neutral when your child starts crying at the sight of a carrot. We do our best to continue to try new foods and stay on the same page regarding our responses to Drew when he accepts a new taste or texture or has a negative response. We learned that it is important not to put pressure on yourself or your child. You are all in this together: learning, experimenting, and doing what is best for your family. For example, Drew cannot sit and eat a meal without playing a card or board game. Some may think this is odd, but it allows him to eat a full meal, distracted, and it works for us.

When we first met with Smita, Drew’s diet was narrowed down to salty finger foods and puree pouches. His diet today includes a variety of solid fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins. We no longer see Smita on a weekly basis, but we continue to partner with her and a gastroenterologist regarding Drew’s issue with reflux. We also continue to meet with his nutritionist every three to six months to ensure that he is getting the appropriate amount of nutrition. It is important to note that during this process we changed Drew’s pediatrician to someone who we know is invested in his feeding journey and is reading the reports submitted to them by Drew’s specialists.

Drew is now a feisty second grader who loves Jurassic World, pirates, telling jokes, playing Minecraft, swimming, and his hamster, Happy. We are so proud of him and how far he has come with his eating, especially since he does not enjoy mealtimes. He may never eat pizza and that is okay. We will continue to work together to expand Drew’s diet so that when he is at an age when we no longer control his food choices, he can make the best decisions for himself.

Shared by Drew’s Parents