Eating at camp. Actually, not eating at camp! — The Bump
Special Needs

Eating at camp. Actually, not eating at camp!

DD1 has been having her first full-day camp this week, and is supposed to bring a lunch and two snacks (a.m. and p.m.). She always eats the first snack that the kids do right away when they get there, but she leaves most of lunch and doesn't touch the afternoon snack -- then gets in the car and says she's hungry. 

They did swimming yesterday and it was the first time she ate a decent lunch -- almost everything was gone and she even nibbled on her afternoon apple. But today when we got into the car and I checked her lunch box, she had only eaten the morning snack -- she didn't eat anything else all day! And she was ravenous, ate half of what was in her lunchbox on the way home and then had an early dinner. She's such a freaking trooper, she was in great spirits and the camp leaders said she had a good day. But going all day on breakfast + a cup of dry granola isn't good for a five-YO! And she's normally a really good eater. 

I kind of thought I had everything covered -- packed things she likes, had her practice with the containers, sitting down and go over the morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack beforehand so she knows what is what, even included a few dollars today when they went rollerskating so she could buy a treat if she wanted one (we've been practicing having her pick things and pay for them herself IRL). But I suspect they're going some days without a structured lunch where everyone sits down together, and she's not the type to stop rollerskating or something if somebody just says at 11 a.m., "Eat when you're hungry, kids!" and doesn't actually call her over to eat. 

There's only one day left, and I'll mention it to the camp people tomorrow, but sheesh, lesson learned. Poor kiddo and her empty belly. "Asking someone to make sure my kid eats" was not exactly on my radar this week. 

DD1, 1/5/2008 ~~~ DD2, 3/17/2010

Re: Eating at camp. Actually, not eating at camp!

  • This is my worst fear of school.  This is going to be my kid every day...even with a scheduled lunch.

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  • Aww, poor kiddo. But I'm glad to hear she's having a good time! My son is doing YMCA daycamp in a couple weeks and will need the same thing- 2 snacks and lunch. I have no idea if he'll eat or not. Like auntie said, I can totally see him being the kid who thinks lunchtime isn't for him, its for the "other" kids. I may have to put a treat in his lunchbox as a "hook"- he is such a rule abider he knows he can't eat his treat without eating everything else first.
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  • Auntie, thanks for the things to think about. 

    I think it's most likely a combo of the first three, and I suspect yesterday was the worst because they went rollerskating and she had never done it before and was super excited about it. When she gets focused on something that she really enjoys or is trying hard at, she tends to ignore everything else. Even hunger, apparently! 

    DD1, 1/5/2008 ~~~ DD2, 3/17/2010
  • Just wanted to update: 

    Today she ate her entire lunch, but not her snacks (which were packed separately in her backpack since they wouldn't fit in her lunch bag today). And I realized that the two days that happened were the ones that I sent her entire lunch in one container rather than multiple small containers inside her lunch bag.

    So I think out-of-sight, out-of-mind is contributing as well, and I'm going to have to change how I pack things. If I put multiple things in the lunch bag, I think it's going to have to be see-through plastic baggies, or one large container where she only has to open one thing and everything is laid out in front of her. 

    So much for my reusable snack bags and cute little stainless steel containers, at least for now. If she can't see it, she's not going to eat it, apparently. 

    DD1, 1/5/2008 ~~~ DD2, 3/17/2010
  • Our son is a terrible eater and will NOT eat at home without distractions and using the 'take a bite to watch a video' technique. He was born not hungry from severe growth restriction. Anyhow, we started him at a school knowing lunch would likely be sacrificed, and it is. He eats crackers and has 2 oz of juice all day long. That's it. He has tons of energy and is in a great mood, but no food. And he isn't starving after either, but eats a 'little' faster at dinner.
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  • -auntie- said:

    Well, this is not as uncommon as you might guess. 

    There are a myriad of reasons why this happens, some garden variety and some ASD specific. If you can figure out why, you might be able to do better next time. Some randoms-

    1. It could be the "lack of structure"  as in lack of overtly stated schedule with times to eat, toilet and transition activities. This child-led format is why most kids on spectrum do poorly in a Montessori program. I'd make sure she was taking a bathroom break as needed because sometimes this behavior leads to avoiding and UTIs.

    2. It could be a function of her not self-identifying as a member of the group. I see this a lot in brighter kids. The teacher or counselor will issue blanket instructions like "lunch time" which don't resonate with kid on spectrum who needs to be directed personally as in "DS, it is lunch time". A lot of teachers do this intuitively- making a special effort to individually prompt a young child, or one with CAPD, who requires it intuitively. If she's been in classes with good teachers she may be used to this. I can't tell you how often I had to explain this trick to teachers, even in high school.

    3. Related to #2, it could be a child-led lunch situation and a glitch with central coherence or abstract reasoning might be impacting her ability to notice everyone else taking a break and eating. It's the "can't see the forest for the trees" thing. She might see A eating, and B eating but not "all the kids are eating" and figure out it's time for her to eat too.

    4. It could be she's passing on lunch to access a preferred activity. It doesn't sound as though she's in a special interest based camp, but this can happen even in a regular camp if the access to equipment is limited and easier for her to get a hold of when others move on to eat.

    5. There's always the possibility that something went badly at lunch and she's avoiding it happening again. It could be no one invited her to sit with them and she didn't want to eat alone. If the kids mostly know each other from another school or previous camp sessions she may have been disinvited. Someone could have made fun of her healthy lunch so she avoided eating in front of others. 

    6. It might just be different than she's used to. She may have been relying on teachers to help her unwrap and open things at school and not feel comfortable asking for help. They may be eating picnic style whereas she's used to sitting at a table. If they're dining al fresco, she may be freaked at the flying insects who come around when there's food open.
    That's a very interesting thought to me, because I'm thinking this is also an issue with ds. He focuses in on details so much that he forgets the main reason he started something in the first place or the big picture of the activity. Any suggestions for how to help refocus?
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