The Journey Begins
“I think we expected almost immediate results with the Feeding Program,” said Darrell of their first outpatient visit. “We felt relief that we finally found a program to help.” And while Reid eventually met his goal of eating chicken wings from his favorite upstate New York restaurant, his progress didn’t happen overnight.
“During the first couple months, Reid was scared, defiant and anxious,” recalled Occupational Therapist Amber E. Bishop, MS, OTR/L, who conducted joint treatment sessions with Psychologist Gail C. Argenbright, PhD. Some of the earliest sessions lasted two or more hours while Amber and Dr. Argenbright worked with Reid to try a quarter size bite of applesauce, a food he used to like.
Once Amber and Dr. Argenbright determined that traditional behavioral protocols weren’t working, they developed a reward system that gave Reid more control by allowing him to complete his feeding “homework” by 8:00 each night to earn rewards like outings with his dad or uncle. His treatment plan also included a referral to a psychiatrist who prescribed medicine to help manage Reid’s anxiety.
“The combination of medication and therapy created the perfect environment for Reid to progress,” stated Amber. With support from his family, including sister Rachel who would hold her brother’s hand and cheer, Reid began adding foods back into his diet and was able to try small bites of his Granny’s turkey dressing, turkey, green beans and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving.
With Dr. Argenbright’s assistance, Reid learned to address his anxiety and created a special system called “flip the switch” that taught him to flip the switch to positive thinking anytime he was intimidated about trying a new food.
“It was neat to watch Reid as his level of confidence improved,” recalled Amber of the list, drawings and charts Reid made to highlight the new foods he’d eaten toward the end of last year. “His entire demeanor shifted.”
An Unlikely Supporter
Reid loves playing guitar, being outdoors and watching one of his favorite wrestlers, Jeff Hardy. One evening while watching television with his mom, Reid saw an interview where the wrestler said “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.” Reid felt “this was a message sent just to me” and adopted the motto during his therapy sessions.
As Reid progressed, his treatment sessions moved from twice a week to once a week then every other week. His family was always involved, either by being in the same treatment room or watching outside on video, so they could help Reid continue his work at home.
“Every tiny success was celebrated,” said Donna, “because it was a big step for Reid.” When he was discharged from Children’s Feeding Program in May 2009, Reid had regained his lost weight and was eating more than 60 foods without anxiety. He even received a graduation certificate and celebrated with his family and therapists at the hospital.
“I don’t know what we would’ve done without Children’s Hospital of Richmond,” Donna said. “The Feeding Program staff supported us, guided us, listened to us but most of all, cared about us as a family. We’re so grateful to these very dedicated and special people.”
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