Food, Food, Food

This is an edited version of a post originally published on Respectfully Connected

I see many parents of autistic children complaining (or worse, mocking) their children’s limited diets.

This is not ok.

I experience a wide range of texture issues when it comes to food (mashed potatoes, most definitely no thank you!), and I have to say:

It’s not ok to:

  1. Force your children to eat something that makes them gag; and/or
  2. Mock or shame them because they don’t eat what you eat.

I know it’s hard when you have to prepare separate meals. I’ve done that, so I know. I still do that despite having executive functioning challenges that can make simply preparing a meal challenging.

We’re coming up to Christmas. While not everyone celebrates Christmas, it’s worth mentioning because Christmas involves food. More than that, Christmas involves a lot of different events that may contribute to the feeling of overwhelm that autistic adults and children experience.

It is ok to:

  1. Opt out of some of those events.
  2. Say no to family get togethers if they’re going to be overwhelming for your children.
  3. Create your own traditions.

It is not ok to place your children in a situation that will be overwhelming, and expect them to eat things that they aren’t used to eating. Then, when they inevitably communicate their distress, it is not ok to use that as an opportunity to complain about how hard your life is.

My son went through a long phase where he would only eat three things: Chicken, broccoli, and rice. So, you know what? We ate chicken, broccoli, and rice for months. Sometimes, I didn’t feel like eating chicken, broccoli, and rice, and so I – as the adult – made a plan to eat something else while he had his chicken, broccoli, and rice.

My son no longer eats chicken or rice. He won’t touch either of them. He eats mashed potato now. I hate mashed potato. The texture of mashed potato makes me gag.

I could force him not to eat mashed potato, and eat the things that I prefer, but I choose not to. Instead, I choose to work around that because him putting food into his mouth is an act of autonomy. I don’t want to nor do I need to disrespect that.

If I can work around my son’s food sensitivities even though I have my own, and I struggle with the executive functioning required to prepare meals at times, then you can too.