Food can be a massive issue for people with autism…strange textures, colours, smells and tastes can make mealtimes challenging. Even more challenging when you can’t communicate what the issue is or what you actually want to eat…
Toby has been under a Dietican since he was a few weeks old. He had a milk and gluten intolerance (gluten we discovered at six months when we weaned him) He has since outgrown these and he is able to eat anything…however he is not able to eat everything. Toby hates anything wet, cold, hot, colourful, mushy, strong, tangy, spicey, sour etc basically he eats dry, beige food (with a few expections because he’s Toby and he doesn’t follow the rules!) this gives us limited options in terms or meals…
He hasn’t always been like that, he used to be a really good eater and I remember boasting to some friends that ‘he would eat anything!’…now things are very different. I can’t even pinpoint when he changed but he seems to have gradually got worse with food.
Toby also finds the social element of mealtimes difficult. For someone who struggles with people and noise, mealtimes can be too intense. Toby still sits in a highchair (despite being 4…) as he feels that this gives him a defined space and he feels safe in there. We make Toby sit up at the table with the rest of us even if it’s just for a few minutes. He usually has a drink and trys a bit of his meal (depending on what it is!) and then climbs down and runs around the garden for a bit (we have patio doors that open from the kitchen in to the garden) He then often comes back and eats some more once the rest of us have finished eating.
Recently Toby’s Dietican has been concerned about his calcium intake as he doesn’t eat any dairy. We use a calcium supplement that we mix with his drinks to try get some calcium in to him. So she requested that we do a five day food diary so she could get a better picture of what he’s getting.
Most days were pretty similar –
Breakfast – dry cereal (Lidl’s version of Cheerios) and then once he has finished them he has to give us his empty bowl (sounds strange but this helps communication – it’s an exchange) and then he gets his fav…Lidl’s chocolate and banana cereal bars!
Mid morning snack – sometimes a banana or some crackers or hula hoops
Lunch – picnic – piece of plain dry bread, cocktail sausages/mini sausage rolls, another cereal bar (apparently at school he eats a tuna sandwich that the kitchen make specially for him every day but he won’t eat that for us at home!)
Tea – this is the complicated one…tea time for Toby ranges from a piece of garlic bread or a tiny piece of dry mince to a full plate of sausage and mash (talk about unpredictable!)
I think in the five days of tracking his food intake he probably had five pieces of fruit and veg in five days…never mind five a day!
Some people would say he’s just a fussy eater. It’s more than that though…Toby is hypersensitive and food is really really difficult if you have sensory needs. He can’t even tolerate the feeling of cutlery in his mouth so he uses his hands. He would much rather go hungry than eat something that he doesn’t want to.
He’ll get there…we have seen some improvements recently as he went through a season of eating even less than he does now – pieces of mince and sausages are a massive breakthrough. As always we’re proud of him and love him to bits!