Untangling the Knot 3. Scavenging for Food

October 27, 2017

A few weeks ago, I learned that Robert was stealing cookies and candies from his peers and from the employees at his program. He would sneak out of the room and aim for drawers and cabinets where he anticipated the presence of goodies.  He would also try to grab candies from others.  He was quick, alert, and well-informed about the places where the sweets or chips  were hidden.

The only thing I could do was to pick up Robert from the program every time he went on illegal scavenger hunt.  But, when I picked him AFTER lunch, Robert didn’t mind and was quite glad to leave with me.  So my picking him was of no consequence. When I tried to pick him up BEFORE he consummated his lunch,  he resisted with all his might.  And might he had.  He pulled, he pushed, he wiggled, he ran away. When he finally get into the car (after eating a part of his lunch any way), I felt exhausted, scared, and totally humiliated. Moreover, despite the fact that this incident was as traumatic for him as it was for me (and others), Robert continue to search for chips and sweets in all forbidden places.

Robert has a long history with food.  When he was very young he had so many serious food allergies that he was diagnosed with failure to thrive.  When the allergens were finally discovered, and proper diet was introduced, he made up for the lost weight.  For a long time, he was in a very good shape. Then in his last year in public school  he gained 15 pounds in six months.  Nothing changed at home.  At school however, he was stuffed with additional calories from chips, cookies and coke. That was the way, his last teacher and teachers’ aid managed Robert behavior.  In the last two years, he lost 10 of those pounds.  Now, however, he is getting it back.  It doesn’t help, that I decided to add a small 3 oz bag of chips and two chocolate chip cookies to his lunch and snack. I did that hoping  that this would prevent him from stealing food from others.  It didn’t.

Robert can exhibit both restrain and complete lack of it as far as food is concerned.  At home, he doesn’t touches KitKats because he knows that one candy is added to his snack bag each day (with a tiny box of blueberries).  He doesn’t touch  Milano cookies as one of them has to be  included in his lunch. Just recently, I placed two chocolate chip cookies in one of the 6 sandwich bags and placed them in the drawer. (Those are the additional cookies I recently added to Robert’s snack.)  Robert let them stay.  He ate, however, in one afternoon. all the cookies which remained in original store container.   In his mind they didn’t have any other designation, so there were for him to gorge on. And gorge he did.

He eats a lot and often.  I suspect that his constant search for food might be a result of not finding other way to occupy himself. That probably applies as much to his home as to his program. Although we try to engage him in different activities, there is not much he would do alone except eating.

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