Mom of Picky Eater

My Wild Child

After struggling for the past 4 1/2 years with my picky eater son, I’ve started to think his eating habits might be part of a larger problem.  Recently, his preschool teacher suggested we have him evaluated for learning disabilities.  I must say I wasn’t surprised to hear her suggestion, as my motherly instinct has told me that something about my son is a little off.  However, what does that mean, a little off?  On the other hand, he seems pretty normal, but being the mother of only two kids, I am no expert.

The teacher says she will ask him to do things and he just stands there for a minute thinking about it before he will eventually join the other kids.  So he’s a bit slow to get moving.  I could see him standing there and I would interpret this as his deciding whether or not he wants to do what she is asking him to do.  Or, she’ll ask him to cut in a straight line with scissors and he’ll go and cut on another point on the page.  I keep thinking, he’s just not following her instructions. She thinks I am missing the reality.

So we had him evaluated by the school district and they were wonderfully informative people.  Two doctors and specialists watched him for a bit and determined he was a completely normal child (well, for the most part), but a bit slow when it comes to processing information.  On all other levels-speech, motor skills, etc, he was fine.  They call it a learning “difference” not “disability.”

While I was relieved to hear that there is nothing “major” wrong with my son, the fact remains that his behavior is quirky at times.  He will occassionally throw mega tantrums when he doesn’t get his way, he clearly gets frustrated and confused at times, and to me, he seems very young for 4 1/2.  I am terrified of what kindergarten will bring!

I thought I’d throw this out on the blogs just to hear from other parents and your experiences.  Sometimes I see how my son is and I think, well I’m kind of that way too.  I have to read things five times sometimes before I get it, I can’t multi-task too well and so on.  Maybe he just needs to learn a bit differently than your average kid.  But is that such a bad thing?

One thing I am going to try, however, is limiting his sugar intake.  For the most part, he is an extremely gentle and loving child.  But occasionally he has a meltdown and at this age, I would think we were past those.  I have a feeling that these occur after he has some really junky sugar treat, like candy.  I know that when I have too much sugar, I have a high and then a real low.  Imagine what it does to a little body.

Anyway, curious if any of you have had children who seemed a little off but not enough to concern professionals and how did you handle it?


17 Responses to “My Wild Child”

  1. Sds says:


    I just read your post and although i’ve never written in a blog before, I felt compelled to respond. It sounds like he might have a small auditory processing issue. I highly recommend you check out a book by Carol Stock Kranowitz,M.A. called ,I believe, The out-of-sync child. It is about children with sensory integration issues. I think if you give this book a look it will help you out a lot. See if your local library has a copy or thumb through it in the book store first before you buy it to make sure it is a fit, but my guess is it will be. I experienced similar issues with loved ones and this book is referred to still. A pediatrician and occupational therapist recommended it.
    Hope it helps!!


  2. Shannon says:

    DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT send him to Kindergarten next year. I have a smart but young son. So many teachers will tell you he has a learning problem. They will become annoyed with him and get impatient. They will not recognize his talents because they have a job to do, and he just doesn’t fit into their plans. Give your kid a break and hold him back now!

    Good luck!

  3. Melissa says:

    I, personally, have a 4 yr old girl and a 6 yr old boy, from what I have noticed from my kids is that when they do these, “I don’t wanna do it now or how you tell me” moods, just give an extra nudge in the direction you would LIKE for him to take and encouragement. Alot of these tend to stem from just wanting that one-on-one attention for a bit. Especially in school when there are so many other kids to focus on. My daughter does well in Pre-K, but her friend does alot of ‘ignoring’ and I believe it’s just learning to go from that solo attention at home to sharing attention with other kids. It’s an adjustment but it will get better. You said he is loving and gentle, so my instinct is that he just needs a little support and loving, gentle attention and ‘ME’ time and it will get better. I promise…and as far as a meltdown…we have those too, so what I do…I get down where they are and have one too..He’ll see how silly you look and feel the embarrassment!!

  4. Audra says:

    I think you sound like a caring Mom who wants the best for your child. It’s always a balancing act – I have good days and bad days. I know that when I’m able to stick to a routine, which includes healthy meals, all our lives go better.

    That said, I remind myself that I am the one in charge of the routine, and if my son’s behavior slips I ask myself what could be causing it? I do a mental check to see how our day has been, how was his sleep the night before, etc. If I haven’t kept the routine I can’t fairly blame him.

    As for school, talk to the school first before making a decision. See if you can visit a classroom during the day when other students are there. Observe. Ask. Seek to understand what programs they have for supporting children who aren’t part of the majority. There are a vast range of skill and maturity levels in children in kindergarten. If you have a good school they will know this, recognize it, and have their teachers trained to manage it. Only then would I recommend making a decision.

    Sometimes when my 5 yr old son is slow to respond to something I’ve asked, it sometimes is because I want him to do it when he is legitimately in the middle of something else. To him, that feels like an intrusion and interruption. Other times, like getting ready for school, he knows are not negotiating times and that when I say move we go. When I can give him a choice about when to do something, I do. It makes the times he can’t choose much easier.

    Good luck!

  5. Beth says:

    I am going thur similar problems with my 8 year old son. He did go thur testing at his school at age 4 1/2 and was diagnosis with AD/HD. My husband and I have made the decision not to use drugs. What has worked has been diet, exercise, enough sleep, reward system, and routine. We are now experiencing new problems. And I have found out that food coloring has a terrible affect on my children. From the research I have done I found out that food coloring is made from crude oil! I research at the library and ask children’s educators for any reccommended books, websites and parenting classes. Here are some books to try: “Bring up boys” Dobson, J., “Boys and Girls learn differntly” & “The Minds of Boys” Gurian, M.
    I am now testing my daughter that is 3 1/2 years old.
    And there are days I ask, why me? But I just try to remember that they are a blessing and I am not the only one strugling to raise happy, health and wise children.
    I say read and try everything that works for your family and don’t be surprise if what works now won’t work in the future. Kids are always growing and changing. Just asking for help proves you are a great mom. Best of luck on the greatest and hardest job in the world!MOM

  6. mom2_two_boys says:

    You seems to be experiencing similar issues that I experience, however my child,who turned 4 in late Dec., is delayed in speech and fine motor skill, in which we are working on and making progess. He also seems young for his age and he has times when he just won’t do what is needed. This can be very stressful. I think consistency is the key with these situations. What works with one child isn’t always going to work with the next. Some kids just don’t want to be pushed and when Kindergarden comes around it probably will mean lots of extra communication with the teachers so that they have an understanding of what is going on. On the up side of things, you have 6-7 months before next year and a lot can change from now. I wish you the best and keep doing what you already are doing!!!

  7. Renee says:

    I agree with Shannon. I held my son back in pre-school an extra year and I feel it has benefited him. He had delayed speech and has been working with a speech therapist for the past 3 years as well as going to pre-school. He was a young 5 his bithday is in May. He will be 6 this year and he will go to kindergarten. I felt he needed to be ready. I was also, concerned about the no child left behind act and that if he was struggling they would just pass him through and it would just get harder and harder for him.

    Good Luck.

  8. Christine says:

    I agree with a lot of what the others have said and commend you for seeking information to give your son what he needs to succeed.

    I am a mother of two boys (10 and 12)and work in early childhood education. I always tell people that time is the greatest gift you can give your child so I agree you might want to wait on kindergarten. Why rush his childhood, especially if he does have some extra challenges like processing and sensory integration issues. My oldest has both as well. I didn’t hold him back and now looking back I wish I had given him that extra time. The older he gets the greater the maturity gap becomes between he and his peers. So if you can afford to give him another year of preschool I think you should go for it.

    Many districts are now offering “transitional” kindergarten where the child can enter kindergarten mid-year, finish out the year and then start kindergarten anew in the fall. The extra time can give your son a chance to adjust to the new environment without the academic pressure to perform, and he’ll be that much more prepared. I would talk to your school district about it. I wish you both well and hope this info helps.

  9. Melissa says:

    I’ll bet Einstein was considered as learning “differently”, and that wound up being for a very good reason–he revolutionized our understanding of temporal and spatial reality. It also meant he wasn’t all that successful in school, on the other hand.

    My one instinct as a mom would be to trust the teacher’s instincts, as she sees all kinds of kids every day and therefore has some kind of baseline for comparison if one kid’s behavior is a little different than the others’. But my instinct as a teacher, understainding that the processing of information in the human brain is very complex, would be to find an alternative way of teaching this child. Children have all kinds of different learning styles and some of them react better to certain learning environments than others–such as the two ladies who kept their children home for a year, essentially “home schooling” them in preparation for kindergarten the following year.

    In addition to that option, I would also suggest looking into other alternatives to public schooling, such as local private or charter schools or co-ops, if only for a year or two. They compare favorably with public schools at this age and stage of development because they are able to provide much more one-on-one attention to a particular child’s learning needs. This kind of face time is getting harder to achieve in overcrowded public classrooms, even with the advent of all-day kindergarten (which I don’t advocate anyway). Going this route might provide your son with valuable social and self-discipline skills outside the confines of his relationship with you, while still meeting his unique learning needs.

  10. NC mom says:

    You sound like a responsible, caring mom. Your story sounds so familiar when my son was young. The other moms that have responded give good advice for not starting a boy in kindergarten too early. Especially if there are signs of potential problems already. I wish I would have done that, I did with my daughter in first grade. It worked to her advantage and was easier on her partents.

    Back to my son, he is now fifteen and a fairly happy, adjusted teen. He was diagnosed with ADHD in second grade. He isn’t the normal type of ADHD that one thinks- he has no hyperactivity, pauses, is highly intelligent but is behind in his executive functions by 2-3 years. This shows in his organization skills or lack of, and can be very frustrating- for all. Hang in there and follow your heart, there could be a number of causes for his behavior and treatments, but just try to get informed and be observant at this young age is a good start.

  11. Pam says:

    Your son reminds me quite a bit of when my brother was young. He was born in November and right along with the rest of the kids born in his year my mom sent him to kindergarten. During a routine check up the doctor mentioned about him starting school, my mom said, well, he’s already in school. The doctor couldn’t believe it, he said this child is NOT ready for school. He said this often happens with little boys. Little girls can usually pull it off but boys are NOT as mature at these ages as girls and some boys are just not ready for school when it’s their age category. Instead of taking him out they had him go through kindergarten two years. I think this always bothered my brother even though he knew why. He also had some audio-visual learning problems. Something similar to dyslexia. I agree with other people who say this child does NOT sound as if he’s ready to go to school. Or, send him to a private school that might be more able to give him personalized attention. I sincerely hope you won’t have the same experiences my mom had getting my brother through school. Once year she had a teacher say that ALL her students were going to learn AT THE SAME RATE. No one fall behind, no one work ahead, no one need extra, help, etc. (Yea, she was new, right out of college). You’re lucky you have a teacher now who seems very understanding and sincerely interested in your child. In the public school system not all are like that. I would suggest keeping him out of the main stream system another year and keep up the evaluation. Don’t rely on one opinion. Sometimes the more people who see your child the better you are. Good luck.

  12. true says:

    I think your first action in calming possibly eliminating the sporatic tantrums would be to cut the sugar out of his diet,good deductive reasoning. And your son may have inherited a neurological cells that processs information slightly slower than the average child. This situation does not exist over both of his brain hemispheres, i believe it is just in one or two specific situations. Have you had the time to sit down with your son and delegate tasks for him to do, then watch his behavior in completing the tasks? If you are able to isolate the type of information and or task(s)that may be difficult or slower to execute for your son, you may be able to pinpoint exactly where the slowing is originating across the hemispheres in the brain? Is your son right or left handed? Training a child to write with the opposite hand strengthens the opposite side of the brain by increasing neurological connects allowing more information to pass at a faster rate. (Your right side controls your left side and your left side controls your right side etc.)I have personally used this concept and found it quite useful and effective in processing information at a faster rate. Try it, tell me how it works. Fruits and veggies are always a big help. If you want to take it a step further, you can buy cereals with a higher content of folic acid, it helps with congnitive function.

  13. Kit says:

    Hi, You sound like a very aware, attentive mother who acknowledges that parenting is a process, and that no parent is perfect. Don’t sell youself short because you “only have two”–many moms think they are better moms because they have more kids, and it’s not true. You sound like the best kind of mom who gives her children wonderful experiences and a healthy environment. Your son and my 7 year old son sound similar in many ways. He too is an extremely picky eater, a slow mover, and an independent thinker. He is calm and good natured, and never had a temper tantrum until last year, I believe in reaction to too much sugar. So, you are absolutely on the right track to look at the food your child eats as a possible trigger for unpleasurable behavior. Sugar, food dyes, and preservatives are all potentially dangerous, depending on the quantity, as well as the makeup of the person ingesting them. My son and I have an intolerance to sugar. I did not need a doctor to tell me that, I learned after observing it, just as you have. My son is seven, and I limit sugar quite a bit–used to be at the most one time a month, but as he got older I got lazy and gave in to what other people were doing, and soon his intake of sugar was nearly daily! Between school treats (they reward good work with candy), birthday parties, holidays, and good-intention neighbors, family, and friends, the sugar was adding up, and at 6 years old my son began having temper tantrums for the first time in his life. I’m back to extremely limited sugar–at the most 2 cookies for example a week. Also, if I bake a treat (again, about once every 2 weeks) I will bake with Splenda, and while some may dislike that for chemical reasons, it does not react negatively with my or my son’s body. Other children I have worked with have had similar problems with food dyes and various preservatives, and I have anxiety reactions to decaffeinated coffee due to the chemical process, so the answer is to primarily stick to home-made, whole foods, and save the junk for when you don’t have as much control, like at a birthday party, when you don’t want your son to feel deprived or left out. But make sure to give him lots of healthy, higher protein food before he goes, so 1) he eats less of the junk and 2) it will help his body absorb the sugar and there will be less likely chance he will have a bad reaction. Second to sugar and food additives as a source for his problems, I think it is so wise of you to acknowledge that some of his behavior is similar to your own, and likely very much within a healthy range, and he will have to learn to adapt his learning style to whatever task is at hand. He sounds like my son, who is an observer, and never rushes to do anything, and definately prefers to do things his own way. He too is very good natured, gentle, and sensitive to things as well as sensitive to how others feel. He never makes a rash, impulsive decision–every decision is considered an important one. Therefore, he takes 20 minutes to pick out one toy to take on the car ride to grandma’s house. (Whereas my daughter will take about 20 seconds to decide!) He, like your son, will deeply consider a command given him before he carries it out. He is not being rude or dismissive of the authoritive person, he just thinks through every little detail. And he’ll gladly give his opinion or suggestion how to better do something if he thinks your idea is not effective enough. He was slow to talk (didn’t talk until 3, and as a result went through speech therapy, which worked great, and now he is a huge chatterer!; and he didn’t walk until he was 16 months–he did not want to do it wrong–he waited until he could just do it perfectly without falling, and he did!) As well, he is very slow to get his work done in school, and that is a problem, now that he is in first grade. He is a perfectionist, and dares not make a mistake for the sake of speed. Once his work is done, whether it be a spelling test or math test or coloring assignment,it is perfect–absolutely perfect. Not one out-of-line scribble, not one mistake. Also, if the teacher tells the class to do their art project “this way” he will most definately do it “some other way”–he will usually first tell the teacher of his own plan, explain to her why he must do it his own way, or why his way is better, or more advantageous for him…he just really thinks through everything, does things his own way, and will not accept shoddy, sloppy work. While he is a superior academic student and is above average in math and reading, the teacher warns us that he will fall behind eventually simply because he takes so much time to complete his work. Therefore, we have implemented a star chart. Every day that he gets dressed and ready for school on time, finishes his homework in a time that I suggest, and finishes his classwork within the alotted time, he gets a star, and at the end of the week gets a reward. Eventually, he forgets about the reward and just is happy to be succeeding at the task of being speedier. Also, I speak to him frankly about having to do things at school the way the teacher says to, and at home, he can do things the way he chooses. For example, he has no desire to write letters the way kids are taught in Kindergarten and first grade. He wants to add curly-ques and make fancy writing, but the teachers won’t allow it, so I tell him to do it the school way at school, and at home he may write his letters however he chooses, and we will tape them on the walls, send them to grandma, etc. He is very artistic, independent, and analytical, and that is why he behaves the way he does. I believe the perfectionism can become a problem, but I tell him he will have to learn how to adjust his personality and learning style with the school work or job or whatever task and activity as it comes. I admit, he is just like me, poor guy! But I have done well for myself exceeding in the arts as well as the academic field, so I think he’ll be okay (I hope!) There may be something “off” with your son, or maybe not. And any diagnosis now is not something that will permanently dictate the performance or behavior or your child. As he matures, he will change, and he may do perfectly fine in school. As well, a very involved parent who is attentive, aware, and constantly observing and learning is truly the best “therapy” there is for any child. Psychologists, medications, special ed classes, tutors, education adaptations–all have little effect without the parent involved. You are doing great and your children are blessed to have you!

  14. Kayleigh says:

    Hi Mom of a Picky Eater,

    I empathize with your situation and wish you and you son the best. I recommend you trust your intuition and get a second opinion.

    I have two sons on the autism spectrum. One is 2 and one is 9. Kids on the spectrum come in all different shades. It is not a one size fits all diagnosis, however if your child is eventually diagnosed as being on the spectrum, it opens the door to you educationally and medically for programs and treatments that you wouldn’t otherwise qualify for.

    Our oldest has been diagnosed with Aspergers with symptoms of ADHD. He’s a wonderful, quirky, high functioning kid who gets along great with adults and is learning to navigate his way with his peers. Because of their sensitivity to smell, temperature, taste and texture, children with Asperger Syndrome are often picky eaters.

    They also have sensory processing issues. They may not be delayed academically but socially they can seem younger or behind.

    Please know I’m not suggesting any type of diagnosis, however if you have lingering concerns, you owe it to yourself and your son to keep investigating.

    Here’s a link which you might want to check out just in case…

    Best wishes and blessings!

  15. teri says:

    hey…it sounds to me like your talking about my child. hes now almost 7. he has grown out of all those little tendencies. hes still a picky eater but he tries alot more things. and hes come to realize he can trust me. i am a picky eater myself and wouldn’t give him anything i wouldn’t eat…well correction…i wouldn’t make him eat it. i give him a chance to try it but you know. yes send him to kindergarten. that has to be the dumbest comment ive read on here. these teachers are trained to deal with all types of kids. my son had alot of problems but was also the fastest learner and was smarter than the other kids. but yea he did everything you explained at that age. it gets better. my son now just talks too much. haha.

  16. Bradey says:

    Hi. I have three sons (6 1/2, 4, 2) and am currently half way through my fourth (and last!) pregnancy. My children couldn’t be more different from each other if they’d come from different gene pools…I was also hesitant to send my oldest son to school. I live in Canada, in Ontario, specifically, and they teach kindergarten as a two-part exercise, which include Junior and Senior Kindergarten (ages 4 and 5, respectively). I waited until the week before school started to register him, and still wasn’t sure about the decision even then. Thankfully, he had a fantastic teacher (with whom I have since become friends) who supported my concerns, and developed strategies for dealing with my son’s quirks.
    He has always been of a frightenly high intelligence level, but also does things only when he wants to, or when he has figured out the best way (for him!) to go about doing things. I was most concerned about his social development, as he found ALL children extremely tedious, and frankly, rather silly. He was a little adult in a kid-sized body, and didn’t (and to a certain point, still doesn’t) understand why he wasn’t on the same par as adults. He spoke in like 5 word sentences by about 21 months, and at 4 1/2 had the vocabulary (this was discovered at school) of a high school student. Of course, his logic, reasoning, and general thought process remained that of a 4 1/2 year old…PROBLEM!! He was also always very sensitive to food textures, the visual image of foods, and ate virtually the exact same thing every day for lunch for the first two years he attended school – half of a cheese, red onion and mustard sandwich (like seriously, what kid eats that?), an iced tea juice box, an apple juice box, and a McIntosh apple (which, by the way, are a precious commodity in my small norther town about 5 months out of the year!!). THAT’S IT!! There was no deviation tolerated. Also, he cried every single day of his Junior Kindergarten year until Christmas.
    I was, of course, as the mother, blaming and second guessing myself twenty-six ways to Sunday for all his “issues”, and that self-recrimination was only enforced by some friends and family who (out loud) blamed me for not having put him in daycare part-time (I’m a stay at home mom by choice), or for not putting him in a playgroup, or for not socializing him better/more/etc…keep in mind I alread had a second child, and was pregnant with my third!! Seemed to me that that should’ve been plenty of exposure to kids!!
    Anyway, to sum up, I think very much that all children are so different, and require different approaches to almost everything in their lives – like potty-training, and coaching, and teaching, and general existence. I somehow expected that because my kids, so far, are all boys, that they would sort of all be similar, and would react to things the same way – I couldn’t have been more wrong!! (Not easy for me to admit!!)
    I, too, took a good look at myself and at my husband, and pretty well every “quirk”, “issue”, or “oddity” that my kids have – so do one of us!! Surprise, Surprise!! Every day I am forced to remind myself to be patient with my kids, and to not expect them to be more than they are, or on the most basic level, different than they are. I am me, they are them, and some days are better than others!!
    Also, now that my oldest is in school full-time (grade 1), and has settled into that routine, he is so much more a “kid” than I could’ve ever hoped for – he runs and plays and acts like a kid, and I never expected that. At first he was sort of like a pod-person, and I kept wondering what was going on with him, but then I noticed that he was almost like the other boys his age, and I rejoiced. Sometimes it’s REALLY hard on the nerves, but mostly I’m just REALLY greatful that he’s healthy, and having fun, and loving life. It’s better than I could’ve ever hoped for for him!!

  17. Hafdis says:

    Have you thought that possibly he has ADHD and maybe you to?
    My son recently was diagnosed with ADHD and he often doesn´t follow instruction from his teacher. It is not because he doesn´t listen, it´s often that he doesn´t quite understand the instructions. Just wanted to point this posibillity out, because all ADHD children are not always hyperactive…

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