I Don't Want to Eat That!

plate of food at fancy restaurant
Charlotte was a 5-year-old who had a very limited diet.  She would only eat pasta, one brand of cereal, pancakes, waffles with chocolate chips, a specific brand of applesauce, and yogurt.  She avoided all meats, fruits and vegetables.  She said that she disliked the taste of new foods.  When foods she didn’t like were offered to her, she refused to taste them, and often refused to touch them.
Charlotte’s dislike of food may have started during infancy when she spit out most new baby foods as they were given to her.   When she was 4-years-old she worked with a speech therapist for five sessions to help her better tolerate foods, but this did not help.
Charlotte’s restrictive food habits prevented her parents from taking her to most restaurants, and affected family events, as Charlotte required a special diet.  Charlotte said she wanted to learn how eat more foods because then she could enjoy herself better when she visited her friends and family.
I suggested to Charlotte that we would write a story together, which would help her eat food more easily.  At Charlotte’s age, storytelling is a very useful way of providing hypnotic suggestions.  The suggestions do not have to be particularly subtle.  When the young child imagines the story their mindset changes, similar to how formal hypnosis helps change the mindset of an older patient, which can promote change in their symptoms or behavior. 
I wrote the story on-the-spot with Charlotte’s assistance, which required creativity on both our parts.  The story was illustrated with images that I copied off the internet and pasted into it.  I used simple words so that Charlotte could help read the story, since she was just learning how to read.  At the end of the session, I printed and gave her the story, which was held together with three staples spaced evenly along the left side into a book form.
“Who should we use as the main character?” I asked, as I sat next to Charlotte on the couch in my office.
“A mermaid,” replied Charlotte. “Like Ariel,” she added helpfully.  I knew she was referring to the Disney movie, “The Little Mermaid.”  If I was unfamiliar with the topic provided by the child I would ask the child to tell me about it.
“Great,” I said.
“What color do you want the letters to be in your story?”
“Got you.  Do you know what Mermaids call a fork?”  I asked.  I recalled that when Ariel found a fork in her movie she did not know what it was, and used it as a comb.  
“It’s called a dinglehopper!”  She exclaimed.
“Right!”  And I typed the title in 72 bold dark red font:
“Who is the author of this book?”  I asked.
“You,” said Charlotte.
“No, it’s you!” I explained.  “What is your middle name?
Charlotte looked at her mother who mouthed the name. “Rose,” Charlotte said.
“Good!”  And I typed in 36 bold red font:
By Charlotte Rose Smiley
“Hey, that’s my name!” she exclaimed.
“That’s right.  This is your book!  Now, let’s find a picture of a mermaid to put on the cover.” 
Charlotte selected one from the Google images page I had looked up.  I dutifully pasted the picture.
“Now, do you want the letters in the story to be the same color?”
“Excellent.”  I switched to 28 point bold red font.
Once upon a time, the mermaid was swimming under the sea.  She met her friends the fish and the crab
Charlotte picked a picture of all three characters to paste into the story.
The mermaid said, “Let’s have a tea party!” 
“Hooray!” said the fish and the crab.
Charlotte leaned on my shoulder to pick the next picture.
“I’m very very very very very very very very very very hungry!” said the fish.
“What’s for dinner?” asked the crab.
Charlotte laughed as I repeated “very” multiple times.  We picked a picture of a sad looking fish.
The mermaid said, “We can eat spaghetti!”
The fish said, “I want to eat a banana.”
The crab said, “I want to eat corn.”
We found photographs of all three food items to put into the story.
“This food is delicious!” said the fish.
“I love love love love love love love love love love it!” said the crab.
Charlotte laughed again.  We picked a picture of a heart to represent love.
“Oh oh,” said the mermaid.
“What’s the matter?” asked the fish.
“I can’t eat any of this food!  How can I pick it up?”
We picked a picture of a mermaid appearing worried.
“I know!” said the crab.  “You can use the dinglehopper.  It’s right there in your hair!”
We picked a picture of mermaid brushing her hair with a fork.
The mermaid was able to eat all of the food with the dinglehopper.  First she ate the spaghetti, which she loved.  Then, she ate the banana, which she loved.  Then, she ate the corn, which she loved.
“Mmm,” said the mermaid.
We picked a picture representing a happy mermaid.
“Let’s do this again!” said the fish.
“Next time, I want to eat rice!” said crab.
We picked a picture a fish and a crab.
“What goes at the end of a story?” I asked.
Charlotte shrugged.
I typed in 72 bold font:
Charlotte got to pick the last picture for the book.  She picked one of an underwater castle.
“That’s a great story you wrote,” I told her.  “Now, you get to play the Mermaid game!”  I typed on the next page:
Every time Charlotte uses the dinglehopper to eat a banana, corn, or any other new food, she will get a prize from the mermaid’s treasure chest.
Below that, I pasted a photo of some sea shells, similar to the ones I have in my office to give as prizes to the children.
“The mermaid gave me some prizes to give you next time we meet!” I explained to Charlotte. “I wonder how many prizes you will win!” 
Charlotte laughed.  “I want to win many prizes!”
“You can do it!” I encouraged her.  “Just remember to use your magic dinglehopper!”
I gave her a stapled copy of her 11 page story, and the prize sheet separately. I encouraged her mother to read the story with Charlotte every evening, and to post the prize sheet where Charlotte could see it.
When Charlotte returned a week later she happily announced that she had eaten some banana with her own fork.  I gave her a sea shell, as promised.
Thereafter, we wrote three more stories, introducing a new food on a weekly basis.  Often, I asked for Charlotte’s input as to what food she would want to try the following week.  Generally, she ate the foods she had planned to introduce.  Twice she said she did not like the foods, and I told her that was perfectly fine.  She was still rewarded for tasting them with more sea shells.
I incorporated more suggestions into the stories regarding how Charlotte might tolerate foods better, including that she could imagine they tasted like foods she already enjoyed, and cutting up the food into tiny pieces.  Also, in one story the mermaid played with her food and made a big mess.  That week, I encouraged Charlotte to play with fruit she usually does not touch, and help her mother make a smoothie for her to drink with one of the fish’s straws.
After ten visits, Charlotte became very comfortable with introducing new foods into her diet, and therefore finished her work with me.
As a parting gift, I gave her a quartz crystal from a supply I keep in my office, which I told her was from the mermaid’s castle.