Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stick a Fork In It

One of the most perplexing things (okay, one of many "most" perplexing things), about raising a not-very-verbal kid with physical challenges is being able to tell the difference between when he CAN'T do something and when he WON'T do something.

Take, as a prime example, our relationship with cutlery. As a parent, I know it is my duty to instill at least a baseline of table manners into my children, so that one day they may be welcome to the table of people with potential import in their lives. Not to mention the fact that it would be nice to have a meal with the kids that doesn't require a bath afterward.

However, after many failed attempts at introducing forks and spoons, Brian and I had sort of given up on it. Besides, there are few things that can't be converted into acceptable finger foods, and Simon is so small that he generally doesn't raise any eyebrows when we dine out and he eats with his hand.

Sadly, we are aware that the clock on this grace period is ticking, and so, this past Saturday, Brian put on a brave face and decided that it was time to re-introduce the FORK. I have to admit, I wasn't completely on board. It was Saturday morning and I had yet to finish my coffee, "Is this really necessary?" I whined. I reminded Brian that, once you start this sort of crusade, you really can't abandon it. It becomes a matter of sheer will, a battle that as a parent, you MUST win (no matter how many years later), because to lose this would mean a lifetime of meals resembling that scene from "The Miracle Worker"...

We know that from a fine motor standpoint use of any tools like this is challenging for Simon. He has trouble manipulating crayons, using scissors, threading beads, connecting legos, etc. We've worked on these skills in OT, and continue to do so, but we haven't really pushed the utensils. It just seemed like making his ability to feed himself more difficult was kinda mean. The kid already has a lot to cope with, why add to it?

But, I had to agree with Brian, the time had come. We owed it to Simon to try to civilize him.

Steadfastly, Brian poured me some more coffee and presented Simon with his favorite breakfast in the whole wide world.. the BIG breakfast from McDonalds, which, believe it or not, my 34lb son can totally pack away, shoveling it in one-handed with gusto.

Exicted, Simon ran to the table, only to fall off his chair in a total and complete tantrum when we presented THE FORK and insisted he use it. We'd pre-loaded it with his favorite part (sausage), but even that wasn't enough and he actually tried to remove the sausage from the fork rather than raise the offending implement to his mouth.

About a dozen tantrums later, we reached a compromise of sorts. I'd placed three forks on his placemat -- each one loaded with a different food. Eggs, pancakes, sausage. "Simon," I chirped in my "Mommy is happy and calm no matter how much you freak out" voice, "look, you can CHOOSE which fork you want. What do you want to eat? Simon can CHOOSE HIMSELF."

Simon was tired, and hungry. This tiny semblance of control was just the olive branch he was looking for to be able to pick up the fork with dignity. He chose sausage. I reloaded. He chose eggs. I reloaded. Pancakes... you get the picture. We did this for a while, and as he settled into the rhythm of it he did something that shocked us.

He took his empty fork and speared his own sausage, thank you very much.

We're still working on it, and it is pretty frustrating for Simon. (FYI, cheese curls are exceptionally motivating and easy to spear). But it is one more step towards ability, and I find that exceptionally motivating for me.


  1. That's fantastic!!! Keep it up mom and dad! You guys are absolutely his best resource. :D

  2. What a victory! (We may have to steal that idea and try practicing with cheese curls here.)

  3. Thanks! Cheese curls are pretty awesome. Cut into small pieces they present a challenge to catch, but tend to stick to the fork pretty easily once stabbed. I took our fork with us to OT this week, and the therapist suggested that for now, we only use the fork with highly motivating foods (like the usually forbidden cheese curls, turkey dogs, pickles, etc.) and then, as he gets more adept at using it, introduce the utensils more regularly. She also suggested we put food in a bowl to keep it from sliding around. Good luck, Rita!

  4. The bowl is a good idea too. And I love the idea of highly motivating foods. Thanks!