Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Struggling with food

One of the biggest issues in bringing any child
is providing them with the balanced diet. Many
autistic people, however, suffer from multiple
food allergies, which not necessarily manifests
itself as a visible rush. Allergies can cause many
behavioural problems like hyperactivity, head
aches, restlessness, irritability even aggression.

For many autistic people food must agree with
their hypersensitivities or a form of OCD. I know
of many who will not mix certain parts of the meal
together, or will not allow them to touch each other
on their plate.

Sometimes it is just an idea of trying a new dish and
you have a hungry child who is not comfortable with
the unknown; taste, smell, texture...

I am always struggling with making Cirwen eat.
When she was smaller, around the age 2 - 4, very
often she would eat only the food she liked the
look of or was related to her Barbie and Princesses
obsession. Well, I even made the mash potato look
pink but it didn't work - she just doesn't like them
at all.

She went once through a whole week living only on
jelly and a bowl of boiled vegetables. My GP said
it's OK, as she had "some nutrients" in the veggies.

I have tested her for some food allergies, but all
what she was tested for came out negative, so I was
told to feed her as she craves things. This way she
goes through the periods of eating one type of food
and then changes for another. It can be tons of pasta
one week and then fish almost every day next.

She still will not eat potatoes in any way you cook it;
fried, boiled, mashed, chips, roasted... no, yuck!
Similar situation is with bread. She would have
a toast for breakfast at times, sandwiches for her
packed lunch, but now she won't touch it.... Bread
seems to be acceptable only in a lunch box.

We also have a problem with meat. She will have
chicken, bacon and ham. She will eat red meat only as
burgers, or with spaghetti - another words - minced.

Cirwen also is very fussy with fruit and vegetables.
Grapes, apples, some of the berries. This again
depends on the texture more than taste. For
example: raspberries are "hairy" and bananas have
similar texture to potatoes... She does like strawberry
flavoured dishes, but will not eat a fresh strawberry,
because it's got pips...

I was very happy, when she discovered kiwi and
loved it. I thought, great, one of the richest fruit,
packed with vitamins! Well, my hopes of adding
new ingredient to my daughter's diet faded rapidly
the next day. She was covered in an itchy rush
from head to toe...

Then come e-factors, which aren't good for any
kids. Autistic child may have an increased
reaction to those. So as Cirwen, therefore we
avoid many sweets and drinks.

This way I often cook something for the three
of us one dish and for Cirwen another, separately.
It's not convenient, but I prefer she eats something
rather than sit for hours in front of a plate of cold
food she thinks is disgusting. (This happened to
me, so I know how it feels...)
We have however an agreement maid recently,
that she will try a new dish at least twice. If she
doesn't like it both times, we won't attempt to
convince her it's good again.

I must say we both stick to it. She will try and
honestly voice her dislike or pleasure. That's one
good side of an autistic mind (in this case).
Honesty. Because the desire to please people is
either non existent or rather low, an autistic
says what she feels regardless of social etiquette.
Things are black or white. Nothing in between
so lets say as it is, to the point.

I struggle sometimes, and visiting family and
friends for dinner can be awkward, but what
can you do?


  1. I had no idea about the food allergies. Nor had I thought about the textures of food as being a problem. But then while I like the flavor of bananas I do not like the texture so I have a very tiny something to help me identify with Cirwen's reactions. The agreement to at least try new dishes does sound promising.

    While reading your post I was wondering about exactly the question you ask at the end. But family and friends should be supportive enough that there should be no awkwardness, shouldn't they?

  2. Hi Libertine...I've made it back to blogger....YAY!

    I went through with the Casein Free then Gluten free diet when my daughter was younger. We found removing anything with CASEIN was the trigger in getting her to pay attention to anything. We found removing glutens had really no affect, so we reintroduced them. To this day, my daughter will avoid all foods with dairy...simply because she realizes when she does have a scoop of ice cream at a birthday party she is extremely emotional the next day. She will only drink water, lemonade and Sprite. She only will eat chicken and minced meat or pork or fish...she really doesn't like fruit other than apples and lemons...and all veggies must be raw...which is to my delight!

    Going to family for dinner was awkward at first...but now they'll just ask, "what should I fix her?" before we arrive. They know. Trial and error.

    I'll be catching up my reading....hope you are doing well. Jenn.

  3. SQ, you are right saying family and friends should support us. Those who keep in touch regularly are. However some older members of our family still thhink we are exagerating and Cirwen is just a spoiled brat... that's why we don't see them so often, lol.

    Jenn, welcome back - really good to hear you! I've tried both casein and gluten free diets, but didn't seem to make a difference, so I'm happy if she eats. She has my "sweet tooth", so we need to watch how much she stuffs that, because sugar rush can really kick in and then she crashes very low... veggies are at the moment a big issue: mushrooms and sweetcorn are the faves (pity there's not much in them), carrots cooked only half crunchy and probably that's all. Butshe keeps trying new tastes.

  4. this post reminds me of what i do :)

    every week at my school, the year 9s split up into these whole day classes that teach us about life skills. the one im doing this term takes us to a school for disadvantaged kids and my friend and i help in the cooking class.

    i found that some kids didnt like some of the ingredients like capsicum (i cant blame them) but they seem to enjoy the skills that they learnt and also the food.
    maybe you could get Cirwen to help you make foods using new ingredients like mini pizzas?

    but im glad shes trying new things. i never thought banana would have the same texture as pototoes.

  5. Angiie, that's a great idea and we are doing it. Cirwen likes helping in the kitchen, and she tries things while we cook. Still many things are just yuck! lol. I think potatoes and bananas have both this floury texture and that's Cirwen's problem with them.