The Texture Of Things

Some Changes are Evident

October 31st, 2006

When the tot first faced off with dried beans, she patted them with one outstretched hand, palm open and fingers together and straight. She wouldn’t get close, but she would make contact, if eventually. She also used that method to touch other uncertain things, like the evergreen shrubs in our front yard, the leaves of the maple trees (but no touching of the branches), new fabrics, and so on. But things, they are a-changin’.

Today, I noticed (and realized I’ve been seeing for some time now) changes in her interactions. After our session with S. today, S. and I talked about the tot’s bean play – seeking out whole body contact by getting in the bin with the beans, mixing items in the bin, having confidence with the substance (i.e., kicking, smacking, splashing are all “safe” now), playing there for longer periods of time. These in themselves are progress, small victories on our way to the big prize: self-feeding and the eating of non-crunchy solids and of, dare I hope, mixed-texture foods.

Then, the tot and I got lunch and went outside to burn (her) energy before nap time. As I watched her ride her tricycle up the sidewalk, I noticed that when she greets the shrubs, now she grabs hold of the long (read: overgrown) branches with her whole hand and strokes them. It reminded me of how I pet the cats’ tails – from base to tip, with the fur, or in this case, needles. I watched some more and I saw her do it alternately with both hands. Both hands? Holy Moly, that is new too.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am a little bit. Sure, I’m delighted too, but I think I got to a point where I quit believing that she would learn to be more confident, more assertive. (One stock phrase of hers right now is “It’s My turn, MY turn!” Assertive much? Good girl.) I got used to her timidity and began to see her behavior as the normal. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to see past my child’s delays because I love her or because I want to meet her where she is developmentally and then move forward from there, but it’s another when I create a world for her where she doesn’t have to work on improving in her problem areas.

So, I need to remember to continue to offer her chances to interact with new or undesired textures, and I need to do it with positive, unquestioning language. “I’m eating cottage cheese. You can look at it with me. You can taste it, when you’re ready.” Instead of “I’m eating cottage cheese. Don’t you want to eat some too?” Most kids, the conventional wisdom has it, need to be exposed to a food ten or more times before they’ll accept it. For the tot, it’s easily five times that, at each step – seeing at a distance, seeing up close, smelling, touching, then tasting. Hopefully, somewhere in that process, she gets okay with having it on her plate or immediately in front of her as well.

When I do it often enough, I am eventually rewarded. Yesterday, when I showed her my bowl, she asked if she could touch the cottage cheese. And she did touch it. With one outstretched hand, palm open, fingers together and straight. She quickly wiped her fingers off on her shirt and went back to her snack with confident waggle of her head. For the first time in a long time, there was no anxiety in her reaction. It was a tentative approach, but a step forward, to be sure.

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