This blog was initially set up as a means of communicating with my son's team. Since then, I've heard from other parents with similar stories. If you are living with challenges or journeying alongside someone who is, you are not alone. There are many of us. I'm a single adoptive Mom ( of a young man who lives with many abilities and many diagnoses. We have journeyed together through many challenges and a few adventures over the years as my son has tried to find space in this world that makes him feel more comfortable, an attempt made especially difficult when living with Attachment Disorder, PDD-NOS (Autism), Developmental Coordination Disorder, ADHD, prenatal substance exposure, etc. Some of the strongest elements used in this journey have been music, visual arts, therapeutic parenting, team-connection, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, communication skills, community-building, continual lifeskills training, and elements of Theraplay. (Click here for some written resources.) On this journey, there is laughter and tears and growth and hope. The greatest of these is hope.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Food Bank Days

I've recently noticed that after our last three trips to the food bank, Chef acts up at home. This past time, Chef was very, very chatty about and very, very visually-focused on the food in the room at the food bank. He was quiet on the drive home with a friend of mine, then became very very chatty about the food bank food again once we were home and were unpacking the food, and continued to be very very chatty about it while making supper he offered to make. The high degree of chattiness was concerning since that's usually an indicator that Chef is pretty wound up inside, but all seemed fine - until Chef was reminded that he needed to wipe out the sink before washing dishes. The rest of the evening was not fun at all.

Going to the food bank seems to be an enjoyable outing for Chef when it comes to choosing food items, discovering what's in our pre-packed bag, seeing all the many many bread items and being told he can choose 3 or 4, seeing the large packages of cheese (Chef's been back on dairy now for over a year though in small amounts every day and very small amounts at a time due to digestive/"behavioural" experiences), and exploring/choosing items from the table by the door. He seems to enjoy seeing the now-familiar volunteers and definitely seems to enjoy the comments they make about him growing or how good it is that he removes sugary foods from our prepacked bag (which is interesting to watch, especially when knowing that if Chef were there on his own and no one knew him, he'd been inhaling all those sugary foods before he even left the food bank ;-) ), etc.

And while Chef isn't "bouncing off the walls" at the food bank, it's clear to those who know him well that it's almost like Christmas for him - there's a plethora of food.

There's also usually a large crowd and fluorescent lights and often a long wait in line that Chef has to deal with (standing for that length of time is difficult for Chef and that much moreso while waiting outside on winter days, other folks might accidentally nudge him or be physically closer than Chef's comfort level allows, etc). Typically what happens is that once he has a visual on food items, that becomes his focus and he'll talk about food generally from that point until we are on our way home - actually he'll quite often still continue talking all the way home and at home about the food.

Grocery shopping has always been one of Chef's favourite outings, and it's something that we've very much enjoyed together. I used to take him to a variety of different shops to buy various ethnic foods, taught him much over the years about nutritional value and how to read the labels, etc., etc. and Chef happily and peacefully drank it all in. I also worked with him for years before he stopped sneaking food off shelves and trying to eat it, and I learned fairly early on not to put grocery bags into the back seat with Chef if I wanted the items they contained to still be there when we got home.

Back to the present, my theory is that he's pretty excited and wound up inside on food bank days, and once we are home and have unpacked and eaten supper, he crashes - similar to a young child at Christmas who is overspent by the excitement of the day and the let-down when it's over.

The other piece is that, through the years, Chef has always wanted all the food immediately after grocery shopping and it generally takes a couple of days before his focus shifts away from that. Food bank days are no different.

The one difference is that Chef doesn't typically act up after grocery shopping yet it's definitely on my radar that "acting up" has happened the last three food bank days. We walk to both the grocery store and the food bank and we walk home from both. There are fluorescent lights and groups of people at both, though foodbank is much smaller and much more enclosed, and requires Chef to hold it together for quite awhile while waiting in a line.

Food bank has the added piece of mystery with a prepacked bag, which is a huge thing for Chef and he often wants to explore the contents of the bag the second it's in his hands, so that will likely add excitement and/or anxiety.

We still remain mostly gluten-free at home so Chef has the greatest dietary benefit possible but we' ve started having some regular bread on weekends when he doesn't need quite as much focus/brainpower/etc as schooldays require, and Chef usually has a bun or two from the food bank once we get home. For as long as I've known him, Chef has been a carbaholic. But when we're grocery shopping, if we pick up bread it primarily involves walking to where the bread is and picking up what we're looking for. At the food bank, there's the excitement/anxiety possibility piece with bread as well because the selection is always different, there's a jumbled myriad of various items on each shelf, and there may or may not be something Chef may have had in mind - it's not nearly as cut and dry as at the grocery store.

The bottom line is that we'll be doing some preplanning now around coping and appropriate behaviour at home for food bank days.

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