There are many symptoms, traits, or characteristics of Autism that still leave me confused. One is that the traits that lead to a child’s diagnosis of Autism are not necessarily the traits they will always have. Over time, some may diminish or disappear and others may pop up. Junior was once tactile defensive to the point where he didn’t want to be hugged or even touched. Now he loves hugs and kisses (as long as he has a bond with the person) and he will even ask to be tickled. He still doesn’t like to get a hair cut or touch slimy things but that is all that is left of his tactile issues. He would once eat anything I put in front of him, although he never ate much meat. Now he is one of the pickiest eaters around (a common enough trait of Autism).
The eating thing really fascinates me. Sometime during his early elementary school years, Junior developed this diet that outwardly appeared to be junk food based. I thought it was one of those typical kid things consisting of an aversion to anything remotely healthy. It wasn’t until I read Nobody Nowhere by Donna Williams that I figured out Junior’s mysterious diet. He only eats foods in a certain color range. Junior only likes foods in the white to gold color spectrum. He likes popcorn, bananas, pineapple, cantaloupe, bread (not anything dark in color), plain vanilla ice cream, kraft mac and cheese, McDonald’s style french fries, and so on. I also learned that some foods have textures that make him gag. He used to love mandarin oranges but he can’t seem to tolerate them now. We tried peaches, but the same thing happened. He tried it only to have to spit it out.
When trying to explain his eating habits to the inexperienced, I get that look or comment that says…I bet if all he was offered were healthier foods then he would eat them. I have also been told that Junior will try anything if he gets hungry enough. I know that most people handing out their wisdom and advice are trying to be helpful. At the same time, it gets frustrating to hear the same stuff over and over. I know it isn’t usually one’s first instinct to stop and think that maybe things work differently with autists and maybe parents of children with Autism actually know what they are doing. I even understand that is just human nature to spout out advice. I don’t judge and I don’t fault. It just gets frustrating. It doesn’t help that when I try to explain the situation, some people insist that I must be making stuff up to make excuses for my son’s weight or behaviors. I don’t like the idea that people insist either to themselves or directly to me that my child is merely spoiled rotten. I wish that was the case because there is a cure for spoiled. My family is the minority and as the minority, we must suffer the opinions and ways of the majority. I must use the same patience with others that I use with my son. It just struck me that it is funny how I must deal with the public the same way I deal with my developmentally disabled child. If people only knew how much they had in common with my son. Maybe we are all a little autistic.
We have actually tried most of the advice given to us. As a part of his treatment for eczema, we tried an elimination diet which excluded almost all of Junior’s foods. I stood very strong and refused to give in because I knew we had to find out if any foods were making his skin condition worse. At the end of two weeks, Junior had lost 14 pounds (this was before the Risperdal when Junior didn’t have the weight to spare). He became lethargic. He would not eat the permitted foods. His allergist (the best in the area) admitted that even if the food was causing the allergies, the autism was interfering with a healthier diet. He said he would support me should I want to stick with the diet but that I would have to prepare to admit Junior to the hospital for monitoring. He said he would make sure that social services didn’t charge us with starving our child. He said that he would wait as long as we wanted to, to see if Junior would come around to eating other foods. I asked him what he would do if Junior was his own child. He said he would not continue with the diet and would seek out other ways to manage eczema.
We continue to offer up other foods, in other color ranges in the hopes that this too shall pass with time. He has developed a liking of green seedless grapes and he will eat a few cucumber slices at a time. We haven’t given up, we have just adjusted our strategy.
Autism is mysterious indeed.