Conor's Story: A New View on Food
By Shannon, Conor's mom
Five-year-old Conor loves sports, riding his bike and going to kindergarten. Although Conor seems like other boys his age, Conor is a little different. When he was about 10 months old, we tried to introduce solid foods into his diet. We were only successful in getting him to eat five foods, which remained his only source of nourishment for the next four years. He ate one fruit, no vegetables and no meat. Various pediatricians told us this was something Conor would eventually outgrow. However, one year led to the next, and I realized this wasn't a chance we were willing to take if we could find help for him. But where?
One blessed day Conor's grandfather met a doctor from Virginia Commonwealth University Health System who told us about the feeding clinic at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU. This was such a relief to know that there was help and that there were other people who shared Conor's anxiety over eating. We had tried everything we could think of to help Conor at home, and no amount of bribery, punishment or reward would work. We knew we couldn't do it alone and that CHoR was the answer we had been searching for.
During our first session, we met our therapist Amber Bishop, who immediately connected with Conor. They have such a great relationship, and I know this is a huge part of our success. The first few sessions were very hard for Conor, but his love for Amber made it tolerable for him. Once Conor realized that this was not a choice and something he had to do, he began to accept the process. Gradually his anxiety lessened. We were also able to meet with Donna Purcell, a psychologist at the clinic, who not only helped Conor but also helped me with Conor's anxiety. She was a great comfort to me in the initial process and full of compassion.
Over the next three months, Conor ate more than 30 new foods and not just at clinic. Through a lot of persistence and patience Conor was able to incorporate all those foods into his regular diet. We allowed Conor to choose the new foods he ate, which lessened his anxiety and gave him a sense of control. We also rewarded Conor with small toys and activities every time he ate a new food. We played a lot of board games as we ate dinner, which aided in distracting him. This was not an easy process but definitely a life-changing one. Conor now has five new favorite foods and eats more than eight vegetables, four starches, five meats and six fruits, among countless other combinations of sandwiches, pizza, etc. We are beginning to combine new foods, and Conor is now eating lasagna and casseroles.
The Feeding Program and Amber Bishop are such a blessing in our lives. It has changed Conor's life socially and emotionally. At such a young age, he has realized he has a tremendous amount of God- sent courage, strength and determination. Food no longer controls Conor's life. There are no more missed birthday parties or team cookouts. With help from this program, Conor has begun to master his anxiety, and I know his future is so much brighter!