Giving Special Thanks
As we enter into November, the fall festivities continue and this is truly still my favorite time of year! It is a time for us to reflect on how the year has transpired and to appreciate all the blessings in our lives. One way we do this is by surrounding ourselves with family and friends on Thanksgiving. Not to mention the super delicious foods we get to share with loved ones on this national holiday – turkey, stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and more!
Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday and not only a reminder to give thanks, but also a reminder to share our homes with others and to break bread (or should I say turkey legs!) with our neighbors. However, it can be challenging for those of us with special needs, sensory sensitive, and allergy sensitive kiddos. Our kids sometimes feel overwhelmed with so many people entering their homes, their space, for the holiday and having to go to someone else’s home to celebrate presents a different set of challenges. We face even more difficulties when it comes to the foods that are served, especially with children who have texture sensitivities and allergies.
Below are some tips that have helped me navigate through these challenges with my kids and I’m hoping they will do the same for you and yours.
- Feeling Overwhelmed – What has worked for my kids and I is to prepare them ahead of time for what to expect. Whether people are coming over to our home or we are going to someone else’s home to celebrate the holiday, I walk my kids step by step through what the day/night should look like. I also try to get them as involved with the planning as possible, such as having them make name tags for where our guests will sit at the table (this gives them a bit of control amidst the chaos as well), getting them involved with the preparation of food, and asking them to set the table etc. And, of course, don’t forget to ALWAYS have your trusty noise cancelling headphones at the ready no matter what!
- Food Sensitivities – My very picky autistic son went through food therapy a few years ago and it was life changing for us. He went from only eating less than half a dozen foods to basically eating everything (with the exception of some foods here or there, and fruit due to the texture). If this type of therapy is of interest to you, you can look into various facilities around town that offer this service. Some close by local facilities are: Children’s Colorado Therapy Care in Parker (720-777-0123) and Pediatric Speech Therapy located at Southlands Mall (720-815-7953). The latter is where I took my son. For those of you who would like to tackle this issue on your own, some of the tips passed down to us from Kaden’s therapists are listed below:
- Put food on your kiddo’s plate, even if he/she does not want to eat it. Sometimes they surprise us and try foods that are right in front of them, especially if their friends or people they trust are eating it.
- Put the food that your child prefers closest to him/her on the plate.
- Cut the food up into tiny bite sizes. This makes the food way less intimidating.
- Encourage your child to just try the food (even if it’s just a lick) by offering rewards (otherwise known as bribes… gotta do what ya can, right?!)
- Encourage them to play with their food and introduce food type games to them (I know, this sounds counterproductive and crazy!). One example of this is to pretend your child’s nose is a ramp for a grape to roll down. Then move on to doing the same thing on their tongue etc.
- Food Allergies – My kids are collectively allergic to all nuts, seeds, dairy and egg, so you can imagine the creativity it takes in my house when it comes to food prep! I typically do my best to make all the yummy traditional Thanksgiving foods allergy safe. This can definitely be a challenge, but totally worth it knowing we can all eat and enjoy the same foods on the table that night. An added bonus is that I don’t have to worry about any cross contamination issues or allergy concerns, which is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Below are some substitute ingredients that may help you if you decide to take this challenge head on!
- Instead of butter, use vegan Earth Balance buttery spread. It tastes just like butter! This is great to use when making mashed potatoes. Also, instead of milk, try Chicken broth!
- If you are ambitious enough to make your gravy from scratch, use gluten free flour instead of regular flour to thicken it (if gluten is one of your no-nos).
- Use soy, rice or coconut milk in recipes that require milk (or any of the nut based milks – cashew, almond etc. if nuts are not an issue, of course)
- Desserts – There are many super yummy ice-cream flavors that are nut and/or dairy free. Check out SO Delicious and Haagen-Dazs brands for flavors such as coconut caramel, mocha chocolate cookie, cookie dough with coconut milk, and mint chip with coconut milk. If your kids are ok with nuts, there are also many more choices made with almond and cashew milk, just to mention a few. If you are ambitious, you can attempt to make an allergy free pie too. My go-to is usually apple pie (apparently my son will eat fruit if it’s baked in a pie… go figure!)
I hope these tips will get you well on your way to having a stress free and enjoyable Thanksgiving and holiday season! Thank you for supporting my efforts in contributing One Piece of the (Pie) Puzzle to making a better and more inclusive world for our kids!
Coffee and Conversation
The Jewish University
The Sunday Experience