The Short of It
A North Carolina family is struggling with more than your average picky eating phase with their 3-year-old boy, who has a sensory disorder that makes him believe it's actually harmful to him to eat.
Liam Edwards, 3, has autism, childhood apraxia of speech, and a sensory processing disorder that makes it very difficult to do something many of us do every single day without even thinking about it: eat.
"He would rather not eat than put whatever it is you put in front of him in his mouth," his occupational therapist, Kimberly Griffin, explained to ABC 11. "He automatically goes to respond, 'That's going to harm me; I don't want it near my body.'"
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This goes way beyond your run-of-the-mill picky eater stage. It's gotten so bad, in fact, that Liam will only eat three types of foods that have to be prepared and served in exactly the same way, on the same plate and with the same cup.
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"It got to the point where he would only drink out of one certain cup," his mom Johannah explains. "He started chewing the tops of them off, and we had to replace them. And we found they didn't make them anymore. So, we had to order the last ones from France and bid $45 per cup on eBay."
This has to be so frustrating for Liam's parents. And while they say he has been working with doctors and therapists near his home in North Carolina, his situation continues to get worse, so he's been referred to a more intensive 5-week program at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in New Jersey, where the goal will be to increase his tolerance from three foods to 30.
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"They have a pediatric clinic for feeding and swallowing for kids just like Liam who have multi-faceted reasons for why they can't eat or drink," Johannah says. "Liam needs that frequency; he needs it to happen often to practice it and for it to become ingrained in his routine and his muscle memory."
Insurance only covers part of the program, so the family will have to pay for behavioral therapy out-of-pocket, not to mention the cost of bunking in a Jersey hotel for five weeks. To help cover those costs, the family has launched the Liam, Let's Eat! campaign on YouCaring, and they're documenting Liam's progress on Instagram and Twitter.