Thursday, 7 February 2013

Food, Glorious Food - Not if you're Autistic!

Pancakes provide calcium and protein
I've just finished making pancakes.It's something my son eats and , from my perspective, has some nutritional value in the eggs and milk it contains.

It's not always easy to find the right food. This morning when I came downstairs, my son, who had been up all night , said he was hungry and would like some toast. What he meant was pre-sliced processed toast. When I told him that we only had fresh bread left but I could toast a couple of slices he replied that he only liked 'square toast'. 

This isn't at all unusual with Autistic children.The other day we were at Grandmas' for Roast dinner. After pudding she handed out some peppermint creams which had been a Christmas gift telling us all that they were from M and S. After a few minutes Grandma noticed that my son hadn't yet eaten his mint.

" Don't you like it she asked?"

 " No", he replied,  "I don't like M and S!

What he meant was that he doesn't like the smell of the M and S stores, in fact he refuses to set foot in them,  and that had effected his decision not to eat the sweet. If Grandma hadn't mentioned where the sweet was from then he would no doubt have eaten it.

Only last night I made lasagne. I usually use a jar of white sauce. but our stocks were out so I made my own. My son loves lasagne but when I gave out the plates he refused to eat his because it 'looked different'. Feeding my son can be frustrating - What he likes one day he will hate the next!

Some Autistic children will stop eating a particular food simply because the packaging  or a minor ingredient has changed . Re-branding can be a nightmare for parents of autistic children!

I also have to remind my son to drink. He can go all day without drinking anything and despite being warned it could lead to kidney infections it doesn't seem to make any difference. If I ask my son if he wants a drink and he says'I don't know' that generally means he will drink it. It is only if he says 'no' that I know there is no point giving him one.

In discussion with friends, I've learned that there are dealing with similar issues.. Some children don't like lumps and will physically vomit if they find one in their food. Others will eat the middle, but not the end of a banana.

Vitamin powder in orange juice and drinks like Complan can add essential vitamins and minerals if your child will eat them, We have found that my son enjoys Nesquik milkshake. One thing I'm sure about though is that it doesn't help to make a big issue of it. If the only thing your child will eat is Mars bars then it is no good banning them, you are purely removing one more foodstuff from your child's already limited diet'

 Some children eat the same thing day in and day out. We are fairly lucky my son loves spicy food and will eat curries, chinese meals and spicy chicken. Other children will only eat bland food like pasta and noodles- so there is no fixed rule. You just have to suck it and see! One of the most helpful books I have found on the subject so far is Can't Eat, Won't Eat by Brenda Legge. Her son would only eat Kit Kats which can be a problem if school bans chocolate from the childrens' lunch boxes!
If anyone has experience of some simple foods which have been successful with their Autistic child then please feel free to share them in the comments section. You may be providing another parent with a life line!


  1. Where do I begin? I dread "New Improved" on old faithful food and why is it whenever a shop decided to change its range it chooses to drop one of our basics? Tramping around every shop in the area just to find a replacement mousse that does not have gelatine, bits in, cream on top but has the right consistency can take weeks.

    And you do it because when you are working with a desperately short list of foods, losing just one is a serious issue.

    The important thing is to just get in all the food groups in any form you can and forget that the combination might be surreal at best.

    Oh and remember that one food that touches another is now poisoned so make sure there is a big plate with gaps around.

  2. That's something I'd forgotten. When my son eats baked beans (and he will only eat a very well known brand) they have to be in a separate bowl so they don't contaminate everything else. I've also heard of some children who will only eat a certain 'colour' food!

  3. We have a stack of those little white china dishes which used to contain a chocolate pudding from Sainsbury's. I ate the puddings and the dishes are useful every day for servings of ketchup, slices of salami, biscuits, anything small which is received well when served in its own little dish.

    What about 'The List' which is imprinted in your mind of the particular varieties of whatever it is which are well received currently? My ideal supermarket would have a small shelf with just what we buy on it. It would be about the size of a car boot, not a superstore!!

    We operate a food freedom approach so we all have our own favourites and do not try to have just one main and one pudding for all 4 of us at one time in one place every fixed mealtime. We do go out and sit in one place at the pub though, but have different drinks and snacks. That's what we enjoy at the moment. We play cards too and bring our own betting chips.

    An interesting thing I have noticed is that for several weeks my children may eat a lot of protein, then may have a few weeks with lots of carbohydrates. This coincides with growing taller then filling out. Obviously each child does this on their own timing.

    I hope this is helpful.

  4. I think the little dish idea is great. It reminded me of another thing I do which is to leave a drink and snack lying around in a prominent place. I've noticed my son will often demolish the snack in his own time! As for us all eating the same thing I can't remember when that last happened!

  5. I love the personal carboot sized shelf idea.
    I think we could all run restaurants without a problem. It is rare for us to not be cooking 3 different meals at the same time. Though we do try to find some common elements on most days because we have a small hob rather than a range. I would kill for an AGA.
    The other thing I would say is not to beat yourself up if you have to resort to convenience food. I never imagined I would but parent sanity is important too. It is limited each week though to a couple of days if we can.

  6. The lumps and pips or seeds are a huge problem in my daughters diet, even the idea that there could be one in food that I know for a fact contains nothing of the sort! She will vomit wherever we are if she thinks she has a lump etc in her mouth...table at a posh restaurant in Covent Garden was the best one, me and her and the table/floor completely covered in very expensive regurgitated strawberry ice cream and a subsequent head to toe wash in a public toilet. Ends of food are a definite no-no and something that has always been tolerated or in some cases adored can be suddenly dropped because it tastes funny or there was something that looked like a pip! I have learnt not to bulk buy anymore as I got fed up of throwing things away. My son who has Aspergers also will separate food so as not to contaminate and will not try anything new, thankfully his diet is reasonably ok if a little rigid. We have 3-4 different meals every day, for the 5 of us, all cooked by me and I get all the complaints too!

    1. We have a stockpile of processed tinned sausages in the cupboard Sarah which my son won't eat any more. I'm not really a fan of them anyway as they are made from rubbishy bits of meat but at one time they were the only thing I could get him to eat!

  7. My son eats marmite sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner without exception. I think it's quite typical for autistic spectrum children to have problems with texture and eating crunchy, dry foods is quite common. My son for example will eat Cookie Crisp without milk (the only cereal he will eat) he eats a wide variety of white breads and tortilla, for quite a while he drank stawberry yoghurt drinks until there was a blip and none in store, now he won't touch them any more. He will eat chips, anything chocolate (no pudding that doesn't contain chocolate) and a few specific meat products (the ones that aren't healthy!). If he eats crisps for example they must all be whole, if there are any blemishes or damage to the individual crisp it can't be eaten. He will eat chicken penang bites, but if they are distorted in anyway they are rejected so I have to ask the staff in Sainsbury's to pick through them and only give me the straight ones otherwise they are wasted. You can't add anything to his diet such as supplements because he can detect the minutest change and won't eat or drink it. He wouldn't for example eat penang bites from Tesco because they taste slightly different. Other issues come into play as only certain crockery, cutlery, cups etc are acceptable. If there is any danger that a 'visitor' to the house MIGHT have TOUCHED for example a juice carton in the fridge then it can't be used (even if I swear it hasn't been touched, that's not good enough). Due to all the other issues I mainly try to concentrate on NOT thinking about the potential damage to his health as nothing I've tried in the past ever worked and I have absolutely no idea what i'm supposed to do about it.

    1. Luckily we have avoided the crockery and cutlery problem in our house. How on earth do you manage when you eat away from home. Does your son take his own set with him?