New Symptoms. What to do.


Over the course of my daughter’s 14.5 year life, we have had new symptoms pop up every couple years. This year was no exception. She began fainting. It first happened on the beach at 8:00 in the morning. If it … Continue reading


Here is my confession:  I’ve really been avoiding this blog, even though I love writing, I love helping people who are new at this tube feeding thing.

There have been other things to focus on – my older daughter got married last weekend, my second oldest son just graduated from nuclear engineering in the Navy and is home on leave before shipping out, my 3rd son has been playing for his high school’s volleyball team and Natalie just turned 13!

Running to her 13 balloons!:

Camera Competition

All good stuff, right? Right.

However, in all honesty, these days I have been quite weary and worn out from all the special needs.  All the meal making, all the meal feeding, the dependence.  At 13, Natalie cannot read a note I leave her, so I cannot leave her a note if I want to run to the store before she awakens.  She cannot possibly feed herself, although she eats part of a meal orally at least once a day.  So someone (mostly me) has to feed her 4 times a day.

I adore Natalie.  She brings such joy and sweetness to my life.  We have wonderful conversations that I enjoy so much.  She also has meltdowns that only I seem able to help her make sense of….

I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

But right now I am exhausted by it all. Thirteen years of it.  A very wise person that I turn to for support in this recurring situation tells me I need time out for myself.  So I told him I would go for a walk at the mall tonight (not to shop – but at the mall my outdoor allergies are not assaulted) because I can walk and relax and regain my sense of self. But I forgot! It is 9:30 and I am off schedule – still feeding her (although she is asleep) – because her brother had a volleyball game. Then we sang happy birthday, etc.  I cannot go to the mall now – even if I wanted to, I am just too tired.

So tomorrow I am going to leave the house right after her bus picks her up.  I am going to go have coffee with a dear friend.  I am going to sit and center myself, remind myself that I am worth taking care of – that I matter. This has always been a struggle for me – it is not new to Nat’s presence in my life.  But her presence makes it a bit harder to battle.  Lack of time and all.  But it is essential.

How about you? Do you struggle to stay whole in this special needs life?  How do you cope with it? What do you do?  I’d love to hear your experiences, thoughts, suggestions.  Right now, I need all the help I can get!

Carefully Controlled Hunger

As the mother of a child with a sensory processing disorder who doesn’t eat much orally, I am always on the alert to help her overcome the oral aversiveness that rules her life.  Little Miss is fed by g-tube for typically 100% of her calories, although she CAN eat.  There are no structural or functional problems that prevent her from eating by feeding herself.

That being said, in the past Little Miss was at risk of literally starving to death rather than eating enough to stay alive.


Moving from elementary school to junior high provides a desire on her part to feed herself and be like other kids.  Positive peer pressure DOES exist!

Her school offers pizza at lunch twice a week, and she wants to be a big kid. She eats pizza for lunch! I send along real silverware so her teacher can cut it into tiny pieces (otherwise she will not eat it). Her blended meal typically comes home untouched on pizza days.

But on to the title of this post: Carefully Controlled Hunger is a technique encouraged years ago by my daughter’s speech pathologist (who was a feeding specialist). What this means is NOT feeding overnight (then the child isn’t hungry during the day), and underfeeding enough to keep my child hungry without endangering her health.  This was very difficult for me to master, emotionally, as we had come so close to losing Little Miss due to her refusal to eat as a baby. Of course, Little Miss’s doctor had to help us find the right calorie count to use this technique.  It wasn’t something we could figure out ourselves.

Now, she is 12. The effectiveness of this method has another opportunity to succeed.  When she is quite hungry, she goes right to the refrigerator and gets out a hot dog. She cuts it up, microwaves it and eats it herself. Or she will ask me to make pizza.

We recently had a few days when she has self-fed three times in one day! It wasn’t enough calories, but it was exciting!

Another key for us in getting our daughter to self-feed:  we have dinner together as a family most evenings.  We all sit down to a meal and I make sure to provide something she usually eats.  We all talk and laugh and eat – together – and this has proven to be a good strategy as well.

Never give up. Never.  Keep trying things.  It is amazing how much it helps my caregiver-exhaustion to have her eat just one meal!

G-tubes and Mouth Eating

Raising a child fed by g-tube for medical reasons has been a big part of my daily life for 12 years.  I would never have anticipated getting so casual about it all.  I can do it without looking, I can do it in the dark (I’m starting to sound like Dr. Seuss), I can do it at red lights while driving.   My other kids know how to do it and her next oldest sibling has been doing it since age 12!

Recently our “Little Miss” has graduated from 6th grade which means she’ll be going to Junior High next year.  She wants a “junior high bike” and since it is only 2 blocks from our home, she wants to bike to school every day.  She does not yet realize I’ll have to go with her to help her cross the street, but we’ll tackle that when the time comes.

Another preference that I think is related to this transitional period is that she wants to EAT SOMETHING AT EVERY MEAL WE HAVE!!! This is very exciting to me because the biggest reason our girlie-girl hasn’t eaten in the past is sensory intolerance.  In other words, she can chew (although this has its own challenges because of her low muscle tone and the difficulty coordinating the two sides of her body) and she can swallow.

The sensory intolerance affects her two different ways: the thought of putting food in her mouth is repulsive, and the texture of the food once in her mouth can be repulsive.  Those are the two biggest inhibitors.  We’ve done tons of therapies and training programs to work on this, with very tiny progress.  Desire turns out to be the greatest motivator.

She loves pizza, bologna, hot dogs, ice cream, french fries, black olives. Do you notice anything missing there??  Ha ha! Yup, no fruits or vegetables.  But I’ll worry about that later.  After all, I am still tube-feeding her as she is not consuming enough of other foods.  Maybe she will, I don’t know.

More on this tomorrow!