Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stuff my Kid Eats That's Just Not Right

Ok. I'm going to come clean on something. Just a little old thing. Nothing bad.

I must confess to having a little test that I reserve for people entering our home as a propspective extra set of hands for me in the after school hours. That's not shady, right?

The way I see it, things around this house can get really ugly, really fast, and if the people entering this home can't stand a little heat, I'm sorry and thank you. I'm afraid we're not a suitable place of employment for you.

I weep as they walk away. These kids are a lot to handle, and respite workers are hard to find.

So, I feel it is practically my duty to show our kind new friends what life here is really like. The problem is, I can't make our son have a toileting accident on command. I certainly wouldn't lead him to play in windows just to show people that he CAN and that we must look out for that. I'm not going to set it up so that he bolts from the house just to prove my point.

I can, however, bring out a box of chalk. Just a simple old box of run-of-the-mill, gluten free crayola chalk. We have a school house chalk board mounted on one of our walls, and, on pretty days, we can take the chalk out onto our driveway.

Gosh, does our older son adore chalk! He loves the feel of it. He loves the way it crumbles in his fingers. He loves the smell of it as he breaks it into pieces in his fingers...

...just before popping it into his mouth and chewing it with lightening speed before I force him to spit it out.

Our son is addicted to chalk. It's a total sensory experience for him. Oh, there could be other needs there as well. Some have guessed that chalk provides calming to stomach upsets, which, if true, would be attractive to this child with constant gastric pain. Vitamin/mineral defficiencies. And, of course, P.I.C.A., a condition affecting usually pregnant women, small children and children with disabilities where there is a strong urge to mouth/eat non-food items.

Trying to tame our son's compulsion to eat chalk to yeoman's work. For, it is truly astounding at the outset to see a ten-year-old actually fit two or more fat pieces of chalk into his mouth and chew--chew with all of his might with the hope of getting any amount swallowed before the Chalk Police come to take it away.

Really, it is a behavior I don't attempt to shape unless I'm in a VERY stable place. LOL. And, that's me: mom, the person who has seen and lived through it all with them.

I figure, if a person new to our home can man up to the battle that is required to keep chalk out of our older son's mouth, well, then, this person just might work out! (*Fingers Crossed*)

While we are on the topic, I'd be remiss without mentioning a few other items, items that are routinely watched with a hawk's eye in our daily lives that might not even make another person blink.

1) Pencils. Although, I must admit that he really doesn't want to eat these as much as he wants to demolish the wood and get to the graphite, which he thinks he can ever-so-delicately pull out from the center of the pencil--completely intact---with his teeth.

2)Markers. How many bites does it take to get to the center of a crayola washable marker? I don't truly know, but I know he gets there every time if left unattended. Those markers make a mess. So do Sharpies.

3)Dirt. Specifically, dirt off of cars. Dirt in the middle of winter that might even be mixed with SALT from snowy roads. Dirt. Our son will fight us to run his fingers along any car he can get to to take a swipe, scoop up some dirt and lick that finger clean. I've even caught him licking the side view mirror of our car with his tongue. One cannot let one's guard down with this child in a parking lot.

4) Grease. Ew. He'll run his fingers along the doors of his school bus or inside tractors or lawn mowers. Sigh. Luckily we always win this one.

5)Snots. No, this is not right, but I also know typical kids that do this. Ick.

6)Power Cords. Thank you to the occupational therapist who used the plumber's tubing when he was little for his oral motor fixations. Thanks for that. He then thought that every power cord--particularly thick vacuum cords--were just like his chewies! Sooooo great!

7)Gluten. Diagnosed at the age of five with Celiac Disease, he also suffers from gluten intolerance and colitis issues common among children on the spectrum of autism. Oh, sure, a gluten intolerance may not be so abnormal, but what is NOT normal, is gluten-seeking. Once our son, who has lived gluten free for over eight years, gets a taste of it, he craves more. That means, he'll find it by eating:

-stickers-most adhesives contain gluten. Watch the fruit in the produce department, the labels on the backs of carpets, price tags or fun decorations on toys. Ugh. Stickers are the worst.

-board books-which are made from recycled paper. Which is made from glue. Which contains gluten (unless a gluten free brand). We had to rid our son's room of all board books when he was younger. Heaven forbid the board books also had stickers. Yikes. A double whamy! Any kind of recycled paper is a problem--construction paper, newspaper, video covers, etc.

-Play doh-Yup. Need a special brand of that.

Gluten is in everything. He will sniff it out like a police dog.

As I look at this list, purged from the top of my head in a matter of minutes, I am sure that there are so many other things that we work to keep out of our son's mouth. Perhaps these are just the big ones.

To mothers on this path behind me who face similar struggles, I say that video cameras are your friend. We have several placed in popular areas of the house. Of course, he's now learned to play outside of the range of the camera, lol, so the battle always continues.

Periods of mouthing seem to cycle. We're in a pretty good spot these days. As long as our son is clear of gluten, and we are on guard in parking lots, we don't battle it every minute like we have in the past.

However, nothing, nothing, will ever be as yummy to him as an uninterupted nibble on a piece of chalk.


  1. Amy, I can relate so well to this post! I tutored and cared for a child who would probably have given your son a run for his money on the orally attractive art of chewing, eating, tasting, and other wise demolishing those things which are not intended to cross the tongue. Her favorite (thinking) yep, I would say it was a favorite was erasers, no pencil was safe! Pencils were not all that great of an idea to begin with, but pens (as you obviously know) carry their own badge of dishonour with them.

    A list is not necessary, but you can bet that I truly DO understand where you are coming from. :-)

    1. I love it when I write something that someone else understands! Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a challenge! I don't have kids in the home, but I do have a cat who eats plastic. (And curling ribbon, but that's a common thing.) When guest visit, I have to be vigilant, because otherwise the cat will dig into purses, carrying bags, etc. to root out the plastic. She adores ziploc bags, and many female friends carry a baggie with vitamins, crackers, etc., in their purses.

    Luckily for me, it is only the one thing, and I pride myself on being somewhat smarter than a cat. Your son sounds, for all his challenges, intelligent and motivated to find a way to get to these substances. What a challenging learning curve - I never would have realized so many (normally) non-edible objects contained gluten, or imagined a child being so compelled to consume them.

    1. Yes, I'd say you have had a "taste" (haha) of this life with your cat. She sounds ornery!!

    2. Beverly, I had a cat that adored plastic as well. Not eating it...but rolling around on it. On grocery day, she would rub up against the bags and then when the first bag was empty, she would pounce upon it and roll around...often getting caught inside the bag or tangled up in the handles :)

  3. Oh yes, my daughter loves to each chalk and she seems to think crayons are delicious. I wish I could find a food that looked and tasted like chalk or crayons.

    1. How did I forget to add crayons to this list?!!!! Lol!

  4. Such an eye opener you have posted here! Testing your respite workers is a great idea. Saves time and a possible injury or total gastric freak out for the kiddo! You're so smart.
    The eating inedible things, I can totally relate with my dog! Yep, seriously. She is 10.5 years old and since infancy she has searched out and tried to eat, are you ready for this? Metal, the smaller the better, screws, nails, paperclips, wire, etc.
    Glass bulbs, as in Christmas lights, night lights. And if glass gets broken, you better get every single shard, she will find it and either eat it or lay and chew on it.

    I can't believe she hasn't killed herself with her cravings, but so far, so good! We are very vigilant, let me tell you that.

    1. METAL???!!!!!!! I can't believe she hasn't hurt herself!!!

    2. Yep and glass! She's a tough little girl. Not bright, but tough!

  5. So maybe once a year, you can make him a nice 'birthday chalk'? Dirt between the layers, frosted with grease, pencils and markers for candles, wrapped in a nice decorative power cord and sprinkled with gluten! I left one of your seven things listed out, but only he should provide that ingredient.

    1. Yeah, and Child Protective Services would be the first to attend his party! Lol!

  6. When my sons were younger it was crayons and pencil erasers. As vigilant as I'd try to be about the crayons...Bear always managed to snag one when I wasn't looking. I'd always find out later of course when the crayon ran it's course :)

    1. I find the crayons in his teeth. Love hearing everyone's stories!

  7. As a kid, I loved pickle relish and yellow mustard on white bread. Chalk might just taste better. ;O)