One large breakfast, autism on the side. Hold the sanity.

Dish and Knife

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Take hash-browns, baked beans and sausage. Offer to one autistic five year-old, for breakfast.

He’d got upset the night before because we didn’t have sausage for dinner, so my husband thought he’d like it for breakfast. But now it’s a very anxious “no sausage, no sausage!”. That’s fine, only put baked beans and hash-browns on the plate. Unfortunately, some hash-brown touched the baked-beans at one point, making those pieces inedible according to our son. The inedible pieces can’t be left on the plate though, or even on mum or dad’s plate, they must be put out of sight into the bin.

He’s very clear that he wants only a spoon and fork, no knife. The fork gets dirty (ie, it touches food) at one stage and must be cleaned straight away. Not licked clean, not just put out of sight, but cleaned properly so there is no trace of food on it anymore, but then left on the table beside his plate again. Later I make the oversight of using the fork to assist him in the aim of scooping beans onto his spoon. That of course upsets him again. At least he now has beans on a spoon and can get them to his mouth.. right..?

Beans make it to his lips where he has a pretend nibble of a single bean, then lowers the spoon carefully to his plate and gets up to leave the table, anxiously saying over and over “cold cold, timer”. He’s trying to say that he wants his food to be cold, not warm. And believe me, by this stage, the food barely counts as luke warm, and is very close to cold after the various theatrics. But fine, I tell him that’s OK and he leaves the table, having only eaten a couple of small pieces of the hash-brown, using his fingers. He doesn’t return to his plate.

I feel like a poor mother on the days that I can barely get him to eat. I console myself with the fact that I can get a kid’s multivitamin into him each night, and he drinks enough chocolate milk and juice that I know he’s getting a fair dose of calcium and vitamin C. I worry about him being under-weight, but the last time we saw his developmental pediatrician she told me he was doing OK, that she was more concerned about the number of children she sees who are over-weight. It never crossed my mind when I had a child, that I would have to worry about him not eating enough, in an age when obesity is said to be at “epidemic” proportions. I’d rather have to stop him eating non-stop than struggle to get him to eat at all (but I’m guessing the mums with obese children would say the opposite just as passionately). So I’m willing to do a few crazy things, like avoid foods touching each other and making sure grapes don’t have any tiny bits of skin sticking up on them, just to get him to open that mouth.

Thankfully, my neurotypical one year-old is a vacuum cleaner, and will attempt to eat both the inedible and edible without much distinction. My five year-old frequently gives him the food he doesn’t want, which can make it difficult sometimes to keep track of what both children have actually eaten through-out the day. At least that’s one family member who enjoys these daily food fights.

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8 Responses to One large breakfast, autism on the side. Hold the sanity.

  1. Stef says:

    Have you thought about grabbing a bento box lunch box to introduce to him? That way the food never touches!

    • Thanks for the thought and idea Stef. In the past we’ve served up foods on separate plates, or just been careful to keep foods from touching. It’s not always a major issue for him, but today his anxieties were particularly high and everything was just setting him off, poor thing. My main concern is still trying to get him to eat more in general, I know you’ve suffered with that with these kiddies before too, if I remember correctly you just stuck at it over many months, and did make quite good progress? We keep trying anyway, can’t give up on something so vital.

  2. akbutler says:

    I think you just described every meal at my house. Lsat night, my 4 yr old (on the spectrum) refused to eat chocolate chip cookies (that he asked me to make) because I didn’t have the right plate for him to eat them on. It was a baby plate that I had recycled. So he didn’t eat them. Little did he know that because he barely eats anything, I would have let him have 6 cookies if he wanted them.
    I’m totally in your boat and am working through the same issues. Will be reading to see if you find anything that works!

  3. Jenny says:

    So ironic that you should post this today! My son who typically eats apples quite well and happily had an almost-meltdown because “they have stinkies on them.” WHAT???!! I’ve never heard that one before, so I had no clue what he was talking about. We were able to determine that I had basically cut too close to the core, so more green was showing at the end of the apple where he was about to take a bite. I cut them off. He still ate only half the apples.

    If your kiddos will eat muffins, that’s awesome because you can hide a TON of stuff in muffins. You can also hide spinach in brownies. You just have to make sure they’re cool. Then you can’t taste it. You can hide sweet potato puree (high in iron) in almost anything, too. The ladies of the Kid-Friendly ADHD/Autism Diet cook book even hide meat purees in muffins. They recommend starting w/one TB of whatever you’re hiding and working your way up. I’ve never started that small. I usually start w/1/4 c. But if your kiddo’s tongue and nose are super sensitive, start smaller! If they like spaghetti sauce, you can hide a ton in that, too.

    I LOVE the bento box idea! If we run into further food-touching issues, I will definitely use it. Thanks!

  4. My son with autism only eats cheez its on most days. Sometimes he throws in some pretzels. And of course he will always eat candy. I know all about the guilt of not being able to get your child to eat. He loves chocolate milk so I just started adding instant breakfast to his chocolate milk. He loves it, and I love that he is actually getting a full belly and some protein and vitamins. 🙂
    Really enjoyed reading your blog … all the best to you and your family.
    — Jess

  5. Jenny says:

    I just had to come back and tell you what happened tonight, as it made me think immediately of this conversation!

    Yesterday was my husband’s bday and the boys decorated the cake by placing 2 lollipops standing up in the center, surrounded by Pez candies. ; ) Tonight when we had our second round of bday cake of course they each wanted a lollipop. In the end, my spectrum son didn’t eat his because “it has frosting on it. Can I have a fresh lollipop?” and then he wouldn’t eat the last bite of cake because, “it has some purple [from the lollipop] on it.” So, I gave him a smaller lollipop and threw away the last bite of cake. For once it worked to my advantage! : )

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