I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before (and if I know you in person, likely complained about it to you extensively) but we’ve had a long-running issue with Daniel throwing food. Not just, dump-his-plate-at-the-end-of-a-meal throwing, but can’t-put-more-than-one-bite-on-his-tray throwing. He would also throw his plate, cup, or silverware, if HEAVEN FORBID you try to set that on his tray. It’s been A THING. I can’t remember if it started when we moved out here, or if it started before that, but it’s been going on for a long time. I talked to his PT and his speech therapist when he was in early intervention. They made some suggestions, but nothing helped. I’ve talked to his speech therapist and his preschool teacher now that he’s in preschool. Again, nothing helped. But then! Last month he had an appointment at the Down syndrome clinic here at Children’s (because they like to see kids once a year to check in) and you know what? They have a behavioral psychologist! Who specializes in kids with Down syndrome!
Y’all. He was so helpful. (I mean, OF COURSE, but I don’t know that it would have occurred to me to seek out a behavioral psychologist on my own.) Anyway, he asked what the problem was and how we respond to it (pretty much just saying “don’t throw stuff”). And when he learned that it had gotten bad enough that we’ve just been straight up feeding him (because he would throw LITERALLY ANYTHING) he said, well, you know he’s got you trained, right? I laughed because OH YES, I’M AWARE. But then he said that he could tell Daniel is very socially motivated. Which, YEP. He loves people, and loves for them to pay attention to him. So what we needed to do was to make it so that the undesired behavior gets no attention. None. Here’s the strategy he gave me. At each meal, sit facing Daniel, focused completely on him. Put food on a spoon/fork and hand it to him. Give him lots of praise for feeding that to himself and giving back the silverware. Lots of interaction. Then any time he throws something, turn away, and don’t interact with him at all for 30 seconds. After the 30 seconds, start again as if nothing happened. He recommended doing this for each of the 3 meals, plus having 3 “practice sessions” per day. (Now, I don’t know if you know this, but we also have 3 other kids and our days are kind of busy sooooooo, I never actually did any practice sessions.)
First of all, do you know how hard it is to not react AT ALL when your kid throws food on the floor? Harder than I thought. Also, 30 seconds is kind of a long time. But, IT WORKED. He’s certainly not perfect but it is SO MUCH BETTER than it used to be! We’ve graduated to being able to set his plate on his tray, at which point he’ll feed himself 2 or 3 bites and then either point at the table or pick up his plate to hand it to you. (I don’t know why he dislikes having it there, but WHATEVER I DON’T EVEN CARE.) He’ll feed himself an entire meal! This is huge for us. So. It’s been awesome.