Little Man has a problem. Well, he has a lot of “problems”, but it really came to light during the IEP meeting last week. He wants to have control as much as possible. He wants to do what he wants to do. But he cannot choose when given choices. It makes him anxious. It makes him shut down when he has to decide.
His mornings have been kind of wonky lately. I finally put two-and-two together this morning. Deciding what to eat for breakfast is overwhelming to him. He paces between the kitchen and family room. He will open the pantry and fridge at least three times each. I hear his breathing escalate. Yes, even deciding what to eat can be too much. But if I put something in front of him, the oppositional/defiant will kick in, and he pushes back. It’s basically a lose-lose every morning, which is not a great way to get our days going.
We decided at the meeting last week we would not give him a choice what snack he will eat, nor when he will eat it. He will get popcorn or goldfish (whatever we happen to have for him at school that week) at morning recess. End of story. We know he has to eat basically every two hours. Given the choice, he won’t eat at recess, and will then fall apart between recess and lunch. So, we’ve taken the choice away. He doesn’t have anxiety over deciding what to eat. He doesn’t have anxiety over when to eat, and he doesn’t have anxiety from being hungry. He’s had better days for the most part this week. The only day he had a meltdown was the day he didn’t eat at morning recess.
I try to keep all these things in my brain. It’s hard when you’re dealing with two other kids’ schedules. I hate putting the responsibility of making sure he eats on his brother and sister, but sometimes that’s a necessity. They know if he’s hungry, he’s likely to freak out.
We’re all learning, especially as Little Man’s needs are ever-evolving. This choice thing doesn’t just apply to food, it applies across the board. The trick is getting him to think he’s choosing even when he isn’t. Sound like fun? Oh yeah.