Any autism parent will tell you what a HUGE deal it is when their child tries a new food. Any autism parent will tell you what an even “HUGER” deal it is when their child actually LIKES the new food. I can count on one hand the foods that G will eat without a war. The staple of her diet is macaroni & cheese.
I know you say “typical” kids can be like this too, and certainly I’ve lived through toddler fussiness with two other kids, but autism is just different. The rigidness doesn’t go away. There is usually no talking to a kid with autism about trying ANYTHING new, from a food, to a better way of putting on their pants, or a different way of getting to the mall. Last year, the town was replacing the sidewalks on a road we take home from school, so the road was closed – G cried EVERY day, BIG tears, almost to meltdown – EVERY day for two weeks until the road was open again. She was ten years old. Maybe that gives you some idea…
This week we got G to try a meatball. This after about a month or so of introducing little bits of meat into spaghetti sauce. I was prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best. She likes spaghetti, so I put ONE small meatball in a bunch of sauce and crossed my fingers and said a little prayer. She took a bite, and made a face like, “I’m not too sure about this,” but she didn’t immediately write it off. She ate another bite, then finished it and thought for a minute then said, “I like it Mommy. Can I have some more?” I wanted to shout Hallelujah but I kept my cool. Too much excitement focused on her makes her freak out. But inside? I was doing a big old happy dance!
So I gave her another meatball, which she promptly ate. Then I had another idea. We had some hot dog buns in the fridge, so I suggested making a meatball hoagie for her (hoagie is our local word for “sub” or “grinder” – submarine sandwich). She balked at that, really complaining for a minute. But I reminded her that she likes bread & a hot dog bun is bread – that these were two things she liked that we would just be putting together. Then amazingly she said ok. And she LOVED it!! Both C and I were SO proud of her for trying the meatball, and then adapting the hot dog bun to a new use as a hoagie bun.
Then I had a thought that brought me great relief and happiness. Once in a while for dinner we’ll order out from a hoagie chain called “Subway.” Now G had ONE thing that she could order from there and be happy. We can go there as a family now!! ONE place where we can all find something on the menu we like. This is amazingly huge.
What’s even better is that G is excited about this too. She went to school yesterday and told all her friends and teachers how she had tried this new food, and now she could eat at Subway with the family. She was rightly proud of herself, and we’re proud of her too.
So at some point this weekend I promised her a trip to Subway so that she could order her very own meatball hoagie. She can’t wait. Neither can I.
It’s the little things that mean A LOT. And for people with autism, actually there are no little things. Every “little” success is a MASSIVE life-changer. It may just seem like meatballs to you, but for G, and for us, it’s a new menu option, and gives us a new place we can go with her for a special lunch or dinner. This “little” success also has her feeling so proud of herself, and hubby and I beaming with pride too. Way to go G!!!