There are some rules we've learned in sixteen years of parenting GameTeen, such as:
He gravitates towards 'white foods', like bread, milk, rice, pasta, yogurt
He doesn't like sauces on his food, which means no gravy, marinara or other stuff
His foods cannot 'touch'
He has a problem with eating most proteins, unless they are ground up
Textures cannot mix, like you can't have raisins in oatmeal or ice cream with additives
Soups have to be broth like
Gradually, though, there has been a change. In the past six months, he's been amenable to things like spaghetti with a tiny bit of marinara, or trying the gravy on his Thanksgiving turkey. We offer, but we do not push, thankful that for a kid on the spectrum, he does eat a variety of foods that meet his guidelines.
With the leftover turkey and chicken carcasses of the week of Thanksgiving, I made a huge pot of Turkey noodle soup, fully expecting that GameTeen wouldn't touch it. Chef and I love this stuff and well, we can eat a stockpot on our own. However, I did offer it to him on a night where we were eating a variety of leftovers-and he gladly partook of it. I fully expected him to eat one spoonful and reject it, as he had in the past. Instead, he emptied the bowl and asked for more.
Still more shocking was that he asked to bring it to school for his lunch for two days, and he chowed down on all that he'd brought both days. It's got quite a bit of veggies floating around in it and still, it didn't phase him that they were there.
Then came today's lunch, which was tuna melts. He turns up his nose at anything but fried fish filets, but he agreed to have some. I was fully expecting him to take a bite and leave the rest. He ate the same amount as the rest of us-then asked for more.
We've gone from baby steps to giant leaps in such a short span of time. Fortunately, many things are cooked in this house that can be easily modified (meats are marinated or given dry rubs, for instance), so that he won't require a separate meal. Some days though, it can be very limiting. It is so nice to see that offering, but not forcing the issue is starting to pay off with him. While he'll never eat everything Ed, Chef or I do, he's opening the door to so many more options with this willingness to mix textures.
In some respects, adopting my mom's approach has been worth it. In my house as a kid, there were 3 or 4 vegetables on the table every night. You didn't have to like them, you didn't have to eat them all, but what you took had to be consumed. We don't put out that many of items, but we also adopted the eat it or don't, but if it's on your plate, you have to try.
Sometimes, as a parent, the little victories like this one are so gratifying...