Due to her sensory issues surrounding food, eating was often a struggle for 8-year-old Layla Bonser. In a bid to find answers, Layla’s family engaged in services with the MEAHLS Team at Therapy Focus.
Layla has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and began experiencing issues as a result of some unhealthy eating habits.
Layla’s mother Alicia said she didn’t know what to do, especially when Layla was missing out on vital nutrition associated with healthy eating.
“All the bad foods – I couldn’t keep her away from them,” Alicia said.
“I had no idea where to start. I was completely at a loss. We were a family that needed help. We needed help with Layla.”
Layla’s family made the agonising decision to place Layla on medication temporarily to help manage her behaviour and anger issues.
“It was an exceptionally hard choice for us, but I feel like it was the best option at the time. Hopefully once we learn more behaviour management strategies we can help Layla handle her emotions and impulses, then she can come off the medication,” Alicia said.
The medication has worked exceptionally well in terms of Layla’s behaviour, but also led to a rapidly declining appetite and Layla lost weight quickly.
We met with Claire Breen, one of Therapy Focus’ dietitians, and devised a plan for Layla for some after school snacks. We have also tried the nutritional drink PediaSure in the past week to bulk up her food intake and she is finding flavours she likes.
The family have continued to work with the MEAHLS Team and developed a plan of action to help combat Layla’s mealtime issues. This included trialling an ‘all done bowl’ for foods Layla is finished with, using visual food charts, and serving buffet-style meals where Layla can serve herself and experiment with new foods without fear.
Alicia said her family celebrated the victories whether they were big or small.
“Eating a whole meal is a big deal – it may seem small to some people, but to us, it’s huge”
In speaking about receiving an autism diagnosis and accessing Therapy Focus’ comprehensive therapy services more broadly, Alicia said she felt an enormous sense of relief.
“The way in which people reacted to Layla changed once we had a diagnosis. There was suddenly acceptance, understanding and a great deal of patience,” she said.
“Layla was always the ‘naughty kid’ at school, and since getting help from her therapy team, Layla has become a better friend. She is learning to maintain friendships and she is even getting invited to birthday parties, which was non-existent before.”
Alicia said that with the help of Therapy Focus, she had learnt as a mother how to respond to Layla more positively and understand her emotions.
Being a special needs Mum can be incredibly stressful at times, but with the help of Layla’s therapy team, it has been less stressful and more rewarding. We have watched her learn and grow into the young lady she is today.
Moving forward, Alicia said she was hopeful about the future for Layla and her family.
“We just want Layla to enjoy her life and have the same opportunities as every other child. Most importantly, we want her to be happy within herself.”