This is the last post in the series, I promise! Thanks for hanging in there with me while I described our mealtime challenges.
We're down to the last two items on the list, which involve Jake's inability to use utensils, drink from a regular cup or use a straw. These were all skills that he had mastered at an earlier age, but lost these abilities during his autistic regression.
I've made progress in getting him to use utensils. He is physically able to use a fork, but it is very difficult for him. Because it required so much effort on his part, he did not like to do it. With lots of praise and encouragement, his confidence was boosted enough to make him more willing to try to use a fork. Since his food choices expanded a bit, I was able to offer daily opportunities for practice. He is now able to use a fork with ease and thoroughly enjoys the positive response he gets for 'eating like a big boy'.
Using a spoon is much more difficult for him. He used to frequently spill the contents of the spoon on himself. At one time, he loved to eat yogurt and pudding, but abandoned them shortly after his regression. I'm sure the difficulty he experienced in using a spoon played a role in that. At this time, I am not able to interest him in any 'wet' foods that would require a spoon to eat. So, we are practicing with dry foods and using a toddler spoon that has a bigger bowl to it. He is learning to hold the bowl of the spoon upright all the way to his mouth and is doing very well. I use a verbal cue of 'spoon stays up' as he guides it from his plate to his mouth. In the beginning, I had to use that cue continually while he practiced, now he just needs an occasional reminder. I am anxious to put this new skill to the test with more challenging foods, but he's not quite ready for that yet.
We still have a long way to go to get him to drink from a regular cup and to use a straw. I have had these issues included in his IEP for the last two years with no progress. I am sending a letter to the school OT to ask her to focus on these issues now. During the summer, I will be his only 'therapist' and I could really use the extra help on this front while it is available.
The bottom line is that we are moving in the right direction. Jake is gaining more confidence and skills. I know that I will be working on all of these mealtime issues for quite some time, but it gets easier every day.