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Question about mealtimes

DarkStar's picture

So here's my issue.  SS14 is autistic and has the emotional maturity of a 5 to 8 year old.  His manners are atrocious.  He shovels food in his mouth like someone's going to take it away from him, gulps his drink like he's dying of thirst WITH food still in his mouth, talks with food in his mouth, clanks and scrapes his silverware against the plate, slurps and grunts at times, and interrupts and interjects in EVERY conversation.  He spills food all around his plate, you get the picture.  It's like this every single meal.  FDH and I can prep him before dinner, warnings of losing his meal/eating alone if his manners are poor, but it does no good.  You would have to be correcting him the entire meal, which ruins everyone's meal.  A lot of his behavior is attention-seeking.  For example, he will drag his fork across his plate making that awful scraping sound while watching me for my reaction.  I am working on ignoring it, but it's hard, because it's EVERY conversation EVERY meal.  You can tell him to stop interrupting, but then he gets the attention he is wanting and will just do it again.

So, I get that some things have to slide, in order to have a semi-peaceful meal.  I play music or have TV on in the background to help eliminate the disgusting noises he makes, I move my chair a bit and stare at the wall to avoid watching his grossness, but it's not enough.  It's not like he does one or two of the above list, it's all of it, every meal. 

I've removed myself from the table, but that makes FDH upset.  SS has been sent from the table, but then he gets attention, and everyone's meal is disturbed by his behavior.  I don't think FDH will go for having SS eat by himself.  That just gives SS free range with his disgusting manners.

I need some creative suggestions and ideas, please.  How to handle this, what to do.....


ksmom14's picture

My first thought was to have him use plastic utensils and even paper plates to eliminate some of the noise issue. 

When SKIDS used to make huge messes at the table, we'd decide who's spot was the messiest, and that SKID had to wipe up the entire table after dinner. They didn't like having to clean up their siblings messes too, so they started trying to not be the loser. 

Does he try to finish his meal quickly so he can leave ASAP? Maybe if he was made to sit and wait at the table until EVERYONE was done he'd slow down the eating because otherwise he'd be sitting there bored day after day?

DarkStar's picture

the idea of plastic utensils and paper plates! 

The problem with the table cleaning, and all chores that he that they are done half-assed, the crumbs are brushed onto the floor, and you have to pretty much stand and watch him do them.  My cup of resentment is already running over with all of the time and energy I spend on this kid, and I won't hover over his chores.  I know.....his Dad needs to do it.  FDH has a MUCH higher tolerance for noise and mess than I do, so stuff that drives me CRAZY isn't even a blip on his radar.

He eats quickly because he is a glutton.  He wants seconds when we all have half of our meals left.  We do make him wait, but then the attention-seeking behavior REALLY ramps up.  We are also having issues with him stealing food, he's going through another growth spurt and eats like a horse.  We give him plenty of food, when he asks for an apple, carrots, etc.....we almost always let him, but he'd rather steal it and not have to bother with asking.

ESMOD's picture

Maybe it's time for a little autonomy with his snacks?  Establish a place where he can have free access to certain food.. veggies, fruit.. peanut butter crackers.. stuff that he can eat when he is in starving child growth mode.  Unless you start having issues like he is refusing to eat meals because of snacking.. there should be some ability for you to not have to micro manage his apple intake.  Not saying you have to buy 100 dollars worth.. but you control what is in the "free access" zone.

I think the paper plates are a good idea too.. and I understand he is diagnosed.. is he workiing with an occupational therapist of any sort to work on his living skills.. like eating etc?  Maybe it's time to get him some of that kind of help.. to reinforce what you try to work on at home?

DarkStar's picture

And it just made the hoarding worse.  He would take food to his room (not allowed) and let it rot.  Old food in his backpack/pockets/coat pockets/notebooks.

ESMOD's picture

Yikes.. I will be honest, I think your DH needs to take a really hard look at what will happen with this boy later in life.  These level behaviors?  he will never live in an unsupervised environment.  I think the sooner your husband looks into where he will end up at 18.. group home etc.. the better.  Because if something happens to your DH.. it will be harder if the kid is unsettled anywhere.

Chmmy's picture

I dont eat with the skids very often which means I dont eat with DH. Sounds atrocious. Some if it may have to do with his maturity level and like you said some is attention. My only suggeation to keep the peace is to give him attention until the behaviors start. Try chatting. Talking about what he likes. When he starts turn away & ignore and get DH on board. He eventually may pick up the social cues...or not :(  That is part of autism.

DarkStar's picture

with your suggestions.  Unfortunately, I am so resentful of this kid at this point that I am unable to just chat with him, I resent the fact he breathes the same air I do.  I know, it's pathetic.  I hate this part of myself, but I don't even care anymore, I just want this kid out of my space.

Chmmy's picture

I resent the skids too. They bother me just by existing so very understood how you feel. I did too much for them and they were too entitled & ungrateful to appreciate it. Now i just loathe them. I struggle to speak to them. I wake them up late for school because if I wake them up at 710 instead of 7 that is 10 less minutes of them in my life. I am only responsible for them 20 or less mins per day and it is more than I want.

lightworker's picture

It must be incredibly frustrating.  My heart goes out to you.

I just interviewed (today) for an ABA job.  It's a system that helps correct autistic behaviors.  His behavior is absolutely unacceptable.  Good news it can be corrected.  Look up ABA therapy in your area. Depending on your state it might be covered by insurance.  

In the meantime maybe this will help:

Good luck.

DarkStar's picture

He has an IEP, just updated last week to include him keeping an arms length distance from other students as well as having an associate walk him to each class because he will not keep his hands or his inappropriate comments (mostly to girls) to himself.  A whole 'nother blog there.

He has ABA therapy.  Group therapy 2 hours a week, individual therapy 1 hour a week.  Speech therapy 45 minutes a week.  Behavior skills therapy at school once a week.

It was easier for me to deal with him when he was an 8 year old acting like a 5 year old.  He was still in the cute/young stage and very much a child.  Now he's almost 15, just a couple of inches shorter than me, and doing the same childish things.  It just pisses me off.  There's NEVER a break.  It's like a toddler, the MINUTE you turn your back or give an INCH, it's trouble.  For example: 

He gets TV?  He watches the ONE show we told him not to watch.  He is by himself for 2 MINUTES in the kitchen?  He's in the fridge trying to take food again.  He gets the chromebook for school?  He plays games on it instead of homework.  He gets access to a computer?  He tries to watch porn.  You don't check his pockets before and after school?  He takes things from home like toy cars/books/games......picks up garbage, keeps old food.

DarkStar's picture

I really feel this is the only place where I can spill all of this and NOT be told I'm a horrible, uncaring monster!  Or everyone's favorite, "You knew what you were getting into"

ESMOD's picture

Look, it sounds like you are dealing with a pretty tough situation.  It must be incredibly frustrating and unfortunately, as aggravating as this kid's behavior is... it also sounds like it may be out of the boy's control to a certain extent.  I mean, it's hard to not view it from the POV that a 15 yo should know how to eat normally etc.. but obviously by the IEP and other impulse control issues that require him to be supervised at school.. these aren't really choices in the traditional sense for him.

Does that make it any easier to deal with.. nope.. not really.  It still sucks the big one.. and it sucks doubly because you know that this kid will never be independent.   While you  may have had some inkling of his delays when he was younger.. it may not have been apparent to the extent he was not going to progress.  If he had been a bio child of YOURS.. perhaps that might have given you enough maternal push to still "love" him.  But as the step-parent.. it probably really makes it tough.  Even if you have some sympathy for his situation and his lack of opportunity in life.. it still remains that to an extent he is going to be a responsiblity for your DH and by proxy somewhat you for a very long time. 

So, you are not a horrible person for wishing you weren't dealing with a severely disabled child.  It definitely stresses the family resources in many ways.  That's a hard pill to swallow.

Unfortunately, we sometimes get to a point where we either decide the peripheral aggravations are tolerable to stay with our SO.. or we decide that despite the fact that we love someone.. we can't live in their life because their life has too many things dragging it down.  Every person will have a different threshold as to what they can deal with.

DarkStar's picture

I'm getting to that point.  Since I'm already the evil SM, might as well keep earning the title!

thinkthrice's picture

admittedly....a stern "cut it out" followed by a smack used to cure this within a most a week.

SteppedOut's picture

Honestly, I could not deal with all of that. I just couldn't; I NEED peace in my home. 

Does your dh have a plan for when he turns 18 and older? Or does he plan to take care of SS at home permanently? 

Harry's picture

Let DH feed him and send him to his room so you can eat dinner 

MoominMama's picture

You have my total and utter sympathy. Dealing with a hi functioning PDD NOS auti has been bad enough. Imo it's not so much that they can't learn these things, it's simply that they don't want to. They want everything on their terms. There is a certain amount of improvement with behavioural therapies but a lot of it is just stuck in rock.

And, when you get some improvement you have to keep on it as they just go back to how it was before, for carers it's like spinning plates and observing the ever decreasing circles if you so much as stop to take a breather. 

I wish I had better advice for you but DH and I have had to admit defeat. You are doing so much for him and it sounds like he is getting a lot of help so I hope things improve for you. 



justmakingthebest's picture

My SS18 is Autisitc (among other things) and meal time is also a point of stress for my DH. I am much more accepting of his "quirks" than many others. Is your SS on medication? Mine is on Lithium (and 5 others) so he is ALWAYS thirsty. He has really bad dry mouth as well. The I have never seen someone that can literally suck down an entire glass of whatever it is we are drinking so quickly. He doesn't even come up for breath! He shovels food, barely cutting, he is slurper as well.

I think that a lot of it for him has to do with his level of being uncomfortable in close quarters (the dining room table) having so much eye contact and converstation. He just wants to retreat so he eats as quickly as he can. I know that he isn't intentional in being rude, and there are days that I call him out and have him sit at the table until the rest of us are finished. Even get him to participate in conversations. 

DH gets much more frustrated that I do over SS's issues. I try really hard to accept him as he is. He had a rough life. His BM is a druggy that has never done anything but disrupt his life when she would pop in. BM2 (Smom to him for 9 years) was HORRIBLE to him. All of DH's family feels that he was probably abused at times when DH was away. SS is still working with a therapist to work out his feelings and anxiety from her. I have been the only stable woman in his life besides MIL, who he lived with for 4 years after BM2 left due to DH being on sea duty at the time and then it was decided to let him finish high school there. 

I try my best to ignore the behavior. It is hard sometimes, but like you said, dinner would be nothing but fussing at him. Maybe try to keep it at 1-2 corrections and don't dwell on it. 

thiscantbenormal's picture

My SS is as food shoveler (puts mouth on plate and scrapes it in). Makes small messes. Doesn't use utensils properly. I could tolerate this no problem. But when he starts going on homicidal and suicidal rants at the table....I can't do it. If my SS ever need to live with DH full time I would have to end the relationship. I can't handle his narcissistic, delusional, and schizo behaviors. It's a flashback to my abusive exes.