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Special needs families: The same meal every night

Special needs families: The same meal every night

I never ever ask my daughter what she wants for dinner.

I haven’t asked her for years now. I don’t make a family meal and expect her to eat it, nor to I even expect her to eat with us as a family. 

All of that causes her too much stress. 

For years I was doing mealtimes all wrong and I didn’t even know it! 

My daughter refused whatever I made, she was losing weight fast, lethargic, pale and very anxious.

Other parents told me ‘She’ll eat when she’s hungry!’.

She never did. Doctors told me ‘She’s just a fussy child. She’ll grow out of it!’ She never did.

Mental health nurses told me ‘You can’t let her control you!’ She still didn’t eat anything.

A dietician prescribed build up shakes. She wouldn’t drink those either. 

Every single mealtime was so stressful we all ended up in tears. 

But all that has changed because now I make the same meal every night and allow her to eat it in front of a screen.

Finally she’s eating, putting on weight, less anxious and thriving in school. 

So few understand extreme food anxiety and refusal.

So many professionals still don’t believe in or understand ARFID (avoidance, restrictive food intake disorder) and many schools don’t accommodate children like my daughter either. 

As a society we are programmed to believe that a healthy diet has to consist of a large variety of different foods, fruits and vegetables are vital, and meals should be eaten as a family without screens.

While that might be the right thing for some it’s not right for my child. 

For my child the same meal every night is what is safe. It’s consistent. It’s predicable and doesn’t cause sensory issues.

It always tastes the same. It looks and smells familiar and there no pressure to be social and eat at the same time. 

By giving her what I know she will eat I am respecting her, understanding her, listening to her and getting her to trust me.

In turn that is what has enabled her, over time, to try new foods and slowly, very slowly, broaden her diet. 

Now at 12 she eats around 10 different foods. A few years ago that was just 4. 

And that progress, however small, is because every single night she has the same meal. 

People can and will judge but they are not living and raising my child.

I need to do what is right for her and you need to do what is right for your child too. 

To all those making the same meal every night for your child: you are doing great!

Don’t allow the judgement of others to get to you.

If your child is eating then you are doing the right thing. Never ever forget that. 

Firefly Blog

Real life stories, issues and experiences of day to day life by special needs parents and
healthcare professionals.

Miriam Gwynne

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Full time mum and carer for two truly wonderful autistic twins. I love reading, writing, walking, swimming and encouraging others. Don’t struggle alone and always remember someone cares.

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