Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Group therapy session: feeding kids with special needs on the go
On Monday's post about Curious George blueberry pancakes, Amy came out of the lurking closet (yay, Amy!) to ask how we handle feeding Max when we travel. She wrote, "As Emma is getting better, she is longing to go to Disney World. To be frank, it will be a dream come true (on many levels) if we can make this happen.... I am curious what you feed Max on trips. Where you eat? How accommodating are theme park or cruise people about cooking foods to a soft state??"
This one's easy. Both because I've learned to call ahead, and also because places are remarkably accommodating. Also, Max really likes to eat (a chip off the old block); here he is sampling North Carolina BBQ on our recent trip to Duke University for his stem cell infusion.
If we are going to a hotel, I will call a few weeks before and ask the front desk who to speak with about special dietary needs. Then I'll explain about Max and why he needs finely-chopped food. That said, give us some mayo or ketchup and we can make nearly any food out there edible for Max (though I doubt that would win us an Iron Chef competition).
I will also ask if we can have a fridge in the room, free of charge, because of Max's special needs; that enables us to shop for foods in local supermarkets. Or we'll pick up some canned foods. Max is a big fan of Chef Boyardee Chicken and Rice and Chef Boyardee Mini Ravioli, which come with snap-off lids. While they're high in sodium, I don't think they're the worst foods to eat, especially on vacation. I'll ask room service to heat them up; once you explain that you have a child with special needs, they usually agree. Or I'll see if there is some sort of microwave for guest usage in the hotel. Once, I made Dave dash out of a motel room to the Denny's across the street and ask them to heat up something for Max. They did! We have no shame. Since having Max, that's pretty much become our unofficial motto.
This past May, we went on a Disney Cruise, and there were so many food choices Max actually put on a few pounds (um, us too). Our waiter made sure we got the desired mushy texture. When you book the cruise, just let them know about any dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free or peanut-free restrictions. Little-known secret: room service on the cruise is free! Just be warned, your child may get used to it. Now whenever we go to hotels, Max demands room service.
We've also been to Disney World. Here's Max at a character dinner in the Crystal Palace:
There are a ton of restaurants at Disney. Check out this complete list of menus for every single eating establishment there, down to the kiosks. For specific advice, contact Disney at SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com or 407-824-5967; also note their Special Dietary Requests page.
I hope this is helpful! I'll bet others here will have more advice. Speaking of which, I'm thinking of starting a regular "group therapy session." You ask whatever q is on your mind, I'll put it up in a post and everyone can weigh in. So, share advice for Amy here as well as any questions you'd like answered about raising kids with special needs and/or the meaning of life.