Have you ever wondered what to tell your other children and family members about your child’s eating disorder? Have you ever wished you had a child friendly, succinct and upbeat resource to share?
Along comes a small book to be published shortly from from Jessica Kingsley Publishers, written by Bryan Lask and Lucy Watson called Can I tell You About Eating Disorders? This little book is apparently one of a series of books written about what the authors refer to as “limiting conditions” such as ADHD, anxiety, autism, Asperger’s syndrome, dementia, and diabetes, among others. It is illustrated by Fiona Bromley.
The book’s introduction states it was written for children ages 7 through 15 years, and its tone is indeed easy to understand and upbeat, but the content is sophisticated and the presentation would not be offputting for adults seeking to understand the various eating disorders from a child’s point of view. The book covers more than just anorexia nervosa, which some of you will be relieved to find out. A group of children are introduced in the book, for example: Alice, who discusses her anorexia nervosa; Freddy, who has food avoidance emotional disorder (FAED); Beth with bulimia nervosa; Francesca with functional dysphagia (what we at Kartini call “food phobia”), and finally Sam, who has selective eating.
Nothing has been more controversial and argued about recently than the terminology used for childhood eating disorders. Controversy was only partially addressed in the new DSM 5, and American readers may be puzzled by the differences in terminology. Dr. Lask and his colleague Dr. Rachel Bryant-Waugh have written extensively on an eating disorder they refer to as food avoidance emotional disorder (FAED). For discussion of this I would refer you to Lask and Bryant-Waugh’s book on childhood eating disorders, Eating Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence.
The same two doctors originally described fear of choking or vomiting leading to absolute food refusal, and they called it “ food phobia”, a term which I have retained in favor of “functional dysphagia” as it is called in this book. I dislike the word “functional” with its history of implied volitionality, and have chosen to retain the older term. But the reader of my blog should not be confused, functional dysphasia is food phobia, and the description little Francesca gives of her concerns is well worth reading.
The children who speak about their conditions in this small book discuss their symptoms, their feelings of isolation, the difficulties they have explaining their issues to their friends, their struggles at home, and the quest for an understanding of what causes their conditions. There are a lot of British-isms throughout the book, as might be expected, but I don’t imagine they will put off the average American reader. After all, we all grew up on Winnie the Pooh and no one seemed to mind.