You know, I remember the first time Cheri told me that a major part of our food chaining program was going to be food education.
I thought she was totally nuts.
I mean, why on earth would I have to go around teaching Ewan about food--he was only 3 at the time. How much can you really teach a 3 year old about food? But determined to try, off I went back home to ponder all these new found fangled ideas of Miss Cheri.
I asked everyone I knew and people at the local university about food education programs for children, and they looked at me like I was totally nuts!
Which left us in kind of a rut. I knew we were supposed to be doing it, but I had no idea how to do it and what to talk about. And there we sat in food education limbo until Ewan put a big ole spotlight on what food education meant to him (something I talk about in the Food Chaining book and my website).
Here was our AHA! moment and our chance to pounce on the food education wave and ride that wave all the way to eating casseroles and spaghetti with meatballs!
Ummm, well, not exactly.
Food education was a springboard for Ewan to experiment and to learn but it didn't always equate with him adding some new food to his diet right away. Sometimes it would take months to get from a sandwich game or sandwich activities to actually combining bread and meat together to EAT a sandwich.
It's a foundation and from this foundation he could build, he could learn, he could expand. What it did was allow him to explore foods in a very safe and non-threatening way, without the expectation of him having to take a bite. He was building a veritable library of food products, characteristics, and properties in his head, in a way that allowed him to trust me, trust food, and to trust himself.
I think someday Ewan could have the capacity to be the next Gordon Ramsey or Anthony Bourdain with a life long love of food and cooking, and certainly he's got the fiery and smart aleck attitude to go with it! He's definitely got Emeril Lagasse's "BAM!" down pat! Ewan definitely has things he loves about food and things he doesn't love but making the food education leap has brought him closer to his family, to his friends, and to his culture.
Ultimately, for Ewan, it came down to the fact that his sensory issues prohibited him from experimenting with food in the appropriate developmental ways that an infant, toddler, and preschooler does. He missed those very important stages of experimentation and we had to go back and start from scratch so that he could build that foundation.
I honestly consider this type of food education on par with reading books to very young children in order to prepare them for independent reading later. Let them play and experiment now in order to prepare them for independent eating later.
There are teaching moments left and right in a child's day, even for 3 year olds. Start small and think big, use the tips here, in the Food Chaining book, and on my website at www.theautismlife.com and combine those with who your child is and create something new and exciting. Never assume your child cannot learn something or does not want to learn something. Be excited about the whole process, if mom and dad and siblings think this is some fun stuff, chances are the child may find something interesting about what you are doing too.