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Eating Issues: Please help! (Mentally Handicapped child)

My step-daughter is 5. We only get her every other weekend (sometimes every weeked if her mom doesn't have plans andevery time there is a 3 or more day holiday we try to get her).

She refuses to eat unless she is geting junk food (needlss to say, she eat's GREAT for grandma as grandma is all about candy, chips, junk, etc as much as we ask her to feed healthy foods). We pretty much assume her mom doesn't make her eat healthy or this would be something she would be used to. We don't know for 100% though as we aren't there and her mom doesn't divulge this type of info, even when we ask... she changes the subject or gets pissed that we ask at all (we are ALWAYS polite and don't attack her).

She will sit at the table with a bite of food in her mouth (that you have to physically feed her or else she just sits there staring around) for an hour. She will not chew, she will not swallow. We have tried identifying her favorite foods and reducing portion sizes to see if she would eat more... she still refuses to eat a whole meal or anything other than sweet items. If you give her something like ketchup to dip her food in she eats just the ketchup/dip and then sits there staring around. If you give her something sweet or junkish (sandwich with chips, sweet potatoes, etc she will eat that one itema dn refuse to eat the rest.

I have noticed that grandma will give her more and more chips and junk or sweet tems and not make her finish a plate. I assume that's what her mom does as well.

Is there anything more we can do? Are we going about this wrong?

We can't seem to get anything through grandma's head or her moms to have them assist us with getting her to eat better (or other than junk food). We have tried. We also have other parenting issues with the mom that go beyond this.

*Edit* I wante dto add (forgot to earlier) that she has already had to have surgery to remove teeth -due to the mental handicap she had to have surgery at the hospital for it- because they were rotting out of her mouth. I have noticed that the one's now left are beginning to turn grey too. :(

She is also gaining unhealthy weight. She is highly over weight for her age and size which will only make issues worse when it come to her mental handicap (mom still hasn't potty trained her and doesn't ay she needs to... she is convinced she will wake up one day and "just start going". So she is already to the breaking point on the biggest size diaper they sell. The waist in her clothes don't fit and then bigger sizes are way too long and nothing fits for a diaper because they aren't made for diapers. I also fear that she will get very unhealthy and make her current health issues worse (she gets sick VERY easily and almost ALWAYS seems to be sick) or harder to handle.


Asked by Memigen at 3:46 PM on Mar. 20, 2011 in School-Age Kids (5-8)

Level 27 (30,799 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (19)
  • I think it's going to be incredibly hard to establish ANY routine--eating, hygiene, potty training if you are only getting her on weekends!!

    If you had her on a regular basis or for say the summer, THEN I could give you a number of suggestions. HOWEVER, if you and your husband feel this child is being NEGLECTED--not eating right, not being taught healthy hygiene, not being potty trained, then MAYBE you and your husband should discuss your concerns with your child welfare office, and seek sole custody!

    I have two autistic children, and while it hasn't been easy, they brush their teeth, eat right, and were 100% potty trained by age 4. So it CAN be done, but not by ignoring the issues. :o)

    Answer by LoriKeet at 4:00 PM on Mar. 20, 2011

  • First off I want to say sorry because I know this is a very difficult situation to go through. I worked as a habilitation tech with adults who have mental illness, and I know how difficult it is to overcome these problems. First of all, is she able to communicate well? Because I think the best way to start is to cut out junk food, if she doesn't eat her dinner then she doesn't get anything to eat, and when she gets hungry enough she will eat. I know that sounds somewhat cruel but it's the only way to get her to understand that she can't always get her way. And you have to put her health over her behavior. The fact that the mother and grandmother aren't targeting these issues will only make the situation worse. If she comes to your house and you work on all of these things then it will be pointless when she goes home. I wish I could think of more to say to help, I really hope you can figure something out, good luck :)

    Answer by kayaiden8907 at 4:04 PM on Mar. 20, 2011

  • You did not mention what her disability is, but if it is autism, there are varying levels of the disability. Since sensory (incl taste) is one common aspect for those who are autistic, there are foods & drinks they prefer over others. (For instance, my son's friend does not like the carbonation in pop) If she is in school or even preschool, you & your husb. should be talking to her teachers, counselors, school nurse, etc. Find out the best approaches from experts familiar with her needs as to the best way to approach introducing new things/foods to her. I would not make any harsh judgments on the mother or grandparents w/out knowing what you are fully up against. I hope you are able to get the answers you need to help her. GL

    Answer by mrsmom110 at 4:10 PM on Mar. 20, 2011

  • My goodness this sounds like a very rough situation. Can you sit down and talk to the bio Mom? Maybe in front of the school or with your husband present and explain your concerns? I feel bad for you and I wish you luck.

    Answer by Peajewel at 4:59 PM on Mar. 20, 2011

  • Does your husband have joint custody? If so, all he has to do is take the court documents to the school and they HAVE to give him the information he wants. My niece's mom tried that one on my brother and I asked the school what he needed to do to get the information and that is what they told me. Have you reserached your stepdaughters disorder to see what the sypmptoms and such are? There really isn't much you can do if you only have her every other weekend. Also, CPS was correct in their long as there is food in the home they won't do anything.

    BTW, sweet potatoes are very healthy, so if she will eat them give them to her.

    Answer by tyfry7496 at 4:59 PM on Mar. 20, 2011

  • Can you talk to her doctor about it? Or your doctor?

    Answer by Anonymous at 3:58 PM on Mar. 20, 2011

  • We can't take her to our doctor because she lives in a different county and her insurance can't cross over. I have tried to mention it to our pediatrician but they can't really offer more help than what they have, and we have already tried everything they have offerred. :(

    Comment by Memigen (original poster) at 4:01 PM on Mar. 20, 2011

  • I agree LoriKeet and this is an ongoing discussion h and I have with not only his mom but the bio mom. They both claim she isn't mentally ready to comprehend potty training, but the school she goes to says they have been working with her and at school she goes for them. We try here but we can maybe get her to go once all weekend for us. :( I assume maybe it's the setting?

    His mom makes it worse because she lives right down the road from the bio mom and she feeds into all the BS and babying her. Rather thana llowing her to grow and flourish. We asked her if she agreed about the issues we see and if she would be a character witness for us if we tok it to trial and she said she ddn't want to get int he middle of it. None of his family will agree to help us or even make an anonymous statement for our benefit. We contacted a lawyer and they said to contact DFCS and have them go by the house.

    Comment by Memigen (original poster) at 4:07 PM on Mar. 20, 2011

  • When DFCS went out they said that the living conditions in the house were not something that concerned them. They pretty much told us we were basing everything on opnion. They offered to stay in the bio moms life and she refused and they dropped the case. :(

    Apparently feeding your kid crap, not potty training them and putting a 5 yr old into size 2 clothes daily isn't an issue to them. We keep her clothes every time she comes over and send her home in bigger sizes but every time we see her she is never wearing them.

    Comment by Memigen (original poster) at 4:09 PM on Mar. 20, 2011

  • @ Kay... we have tried that but it doesn't seem to make a difference. She simply refusd to eat at all for a day and a half until she went to grandma's house and got her junk food. :( She is getting much better about communication but still doesn't speak much (I doubt mom takes the time to speak to her and teach her communication). She does have her own ways of communicating with us though.

    Comment by Memigen (original poster) at 4:11 PM on Mar. 20, 2011