AIDEN’S CASE STUDY
Aiden’s mom called SOAR because he wasn’t eating orally. He was fed through a G-tube (a tube placed in his stomach that allows food to go directly to the stomach). Because of the lack of regular nutrients in his diet, Aiden was small for his age and suffered from other vitamin deficiencies.
We started with a comprehensive assessment. We also reached out to Aiden’s gastroenterologist (digestive doctor) to determine if his refusal to eat orally was due to a medical condition or whether it was purely behavioral. His doctor confirmed that he possessed all of the “plumbing” to be able to eat orally, but that his behavioral rigidity was causing him to not eat orally. He confirmed that ABA could be effective treatment for his eating refusal.
We got to work. We started by throwing a “food party” where we let Aiden play at the table with his favorite toys (iPad, light up toys, etc.). We also gave him a very small bit of baby food presented on a baby spoon. If Aiden allowed us to touch his lips with the food (not eat it), we kept the party going. If he refused, we paused the party and removed all the fun stuff. He figured out pretty quickly that he got a party for following a pretty benign request.
Over the next couple of years, we slowly increased the request: first touching lips, second touching tongue, third holding in mouth and spitting out, fourth holding in mouth for longer, fifth swallowing. And all of this with baby food.
The next step was chewing. We presented Aiden with solid food and, following the same procedure, eventually got him to chew his food.
By the time he was 5 years old, Aiden could be found eating pizza at lunch at school with his peers. About 6 months after entering kindergarten his gastroenterologist determined that Aiden no longer needed his g-tube. So he removed it.