I imagine there are two groups of people who use the word “bite” on a regular basis: 1) Vampires. 2) My family.
We’re not vampires, if you’re wondering. (Or are we?) But bites are as essential to our daily lives as breathing these days. You might remember that Josh recently finished a feeding program at the Marcus Autism Center – the main purpose was to make him fatter, taller, and more inclined to eat food. We learned a ton about Josh and the way he chews, swallows, and smiles after misbehaving during this eight-week program at Marcus.
But, as the youths say, the party didn’t stop there. After graduating the program, Josh could only continue to succeed and gain weight if we kept up the program at home. I think most people know that we do this. And since sharing is caring, I thought you might be interested to know what exactly that means for our daily lives. If you’re not interested, here’s a picture of a cat with a mustache:
If you’ve talked to me/texted me/are a stranger who’s run into me at the grocery store, you’ve probably heard me mention Joshua’s bites. While I understand your alarm, I don’t mean that Joshua will bite you. I mean, he could. Don’t stand too close. But in this case, I am talking about Josh’s daily food schedule.
Before I explain further, let me drop some science knowledge on you: You need calories to live and gain weight. Yes. It’s true.
In order to make sure Josh gets all his caloric needs met, we do these special meals with him four times a day. Most of the time, we refer to these as bites, for reasons which will soon become self-evident.
Right now, Josh eats pureed foods. If you’ve never pureed a hot dog, you absolutely shouldn’t. We have 16 foods (four proteins, four starches, four veggies, and four fruits) that we rotate through every day. We puree foods each week and then cry a little bit. During the four meals, which last about half an hour each, plus about 15 minutes for prep, we have a “script” to follow.
Before we begin the bites, we give Josh a set of rules. They tell him what we expect him to do, and what we will do. The basic set up is: We tell him to take a bite, feed him a specific amount of food from a specific spoon, and he eats it. We tell him good job for taking his bite, and once he swallows, we tell him good job for swallowing. Then he gets a reward for 20 seconds, which is a cartoon of his choosing.
The hardest part isn’t setting up the meal or getting him to take the bite. It’s sounding sincere when I say, “Good job taking that bite!!!” 65 times in a row (we do 13 rounds of five bites in each session). I’m not what you call a naturally sunny person. And I have a lower, somewhat monotonous voice. But a big part of this program is positive reinforcement. We ignore any negative behavior or statements, as long as he isn’t going to hurt himself or others. And when we tell him good job, it has to be said in the most cheerful, excited voice you ever heard in your life. We have to “label” the praise – i.e., instead of just “Good job, Josh!” we are supposed to say, “Good job taking that bite, Josh!” “Good job swallowing, Josh!” “Good job bringing Mommy that ice pack after she banged her head continually against the wall in frustration over having to say ‘good job’ 100 times a day, Josh!” Daniel is a natural. And I’ve been told I am not the worst anymore.
The best thing about the labeled praise is that, like so many things meant to be taken seriously, it has provided Daniel and me with some much-needed entertainment. We praise each other for everything: “Good job taking out the trash, honey!” “Great job telling the kids to go to bed right now unless they never want to go to a birthday party again, honey!” “Good job screaming into that pillow, honey!”
See? It’s a riot.
We do the bites four times a day. In between, we have him eat snacks to make up the rest of the calories not covered by the pureed food. Much of the day is spent eating, in other words. Just as God intended it.
So now you know what I’m talking about when I say it’s time for Joshua’s bites. And you know why I can commit to maybe a 45-minute playdate at best in order to leave room for said bites. Between the meals and therapy, our free time is about as long as one very annoying Paw Patrol episode. But I’ll Skype you!
Coincidentally (or ironically, if you’re Alanis Morissette), it’s time for Josh’s bites! Seacrest out.