Friday, July 2, 2010

Food...The Final Frontier

Anyone who has a child on the autistic spectrum will know what it's like to have issues (or as I prefer to call them screaming bouts of frothing hysteria) with food.
Actually, scratch that...anyone with children will know what it's like.

I have a 13 year old neuro-typical son (if it's not  against the law to apply that term to a teenager) who has retreated, permanently it would seem, to his bedroom/cave to communicate solely with other pubescent lifeforms dwelling in the netherworld of the Xbox.
He emerges occasionally to grunt  in the direction of food before shambling back into his darkened lair.
Many years ahead I expect to see a 6ft bearded stranger, wearing a suit and polished shoes, to materialize from that room, blinking in the sunlight, with a career, a briefcase and quite possibly a wife.
He will speak in full sentences and occasionally trim his nails.
Until that day, I can with confidence reveal that the smell of teen spirit is a heady concoction of armpits, hair gel and mouldy socks.
In the meantime I appear to be fueling this painfully slow metamorphosis with small mountains of tasteless carbs and monosodium glutamate.

I have a 10 year old neuro-typical daughter who I like to describe as a Hannah Montana/Vivienne Westwood wardrobe explosion.  She has a cool eccentricity I hope she always manages to hold onto.
She is also painfully skinny.
The belts we buy to hold up her jeans have to be punctured 1/2  the way up to secure them around her teeny tiny tummy.
She eats ridiculously healthy food (fruit, veg, meat) not because she thinks she should, but because she really likes it...but she doesn't do carbs.
Bread, pasta and rice are artfully moved around her plate and she has perfected the art of whisking her plate to the sink and throwing a "thanks I'm finished" over her shoulder as she vanishes out the door.
That girl can move fast.

My 6 year old autie son will eat anything, just so long as it's mashed potatoes with beans.
Sometimes he'll push the boat out and risk some weetabix, or a few chips but that's the breadth of his culinary adventures.
He is a dedicated  apostle of all things puréed, and in his opinion, fruit and veg are just silly.

So, every so often I indulge in a nice little worry about their nutrition and health and try to figure out where their food issues (*cough* neuroses) arise from.

I don't have to go far to find the answer.

I have a bad relationship with food, and really only cook when starvation is imminent.
It is definitely more Gordon Ramsay than Jamie Oliver in my kitchen.
If I could cook with the same passion as I  swear at the shrink wrapping on frozen pizza, then gastronomic bliss would reign in our house.

So I asked myself, what exactly do I not like about food.
I like how it looks and smells, and I love to eat it....but I realised that I don't like to touch it.
Slicing chicken fillets make my toes curl, rubbing butter into flour fills me with sticky horror, and mixing anything doughy, meaty or gelatinous with my bare hands makes my heart race (and not in a good way).

(those pesky scientists who hypothesise that there is a genetic element to autism couldn't possibly be right, could they???)

Myself, Himself, Bob's teachers, sna's, occupational therapist, speech therapist, stylist (OK, he doesn't have a stylist...I was just checking that you were paying attention), friends, Romans and countrymen are all working towards Bob overcoming his sensory issues.
He has come a long way in three years, and can now tolerate walking on grass and sand, and not only will he touch play dough but he can finger paint and play with shaving foam (sometimes on the bathroom wall with his Daddy's best Nivea stuff, but that's another story).

So it's a bit rich for me to avoid cooking because food makes me squirm, when a young autistic child can successfully do battle, David and Goliath style, with a whole host of sensory issues.

So this evening I took a deep breath and baked a loaf of bread.
I haven't eaten it yet, but I don't really care if it could be used as a breeze block to build a pier in the North Atlantic.
The fact is I got dough under my fingernails and toughed out the screaming urge to scrub them with surgical spirits.

All thanks to my autie kid's stubbornness tenacity igniting a spark of domestic inspiration in me, myself and my family might be eating better in the future.
Unless the demand for breeze blocks increases.


  1. Hi Jean, I finally found you! LOL! This is good stuff, you really made me laugh! See what our kids can push us to do the things we never thought we could. Amazing and GOOD for you, momma!

  2. Sorry Jean, I forgot to say I can't figure out how to follow you on Blogger. Most of the time there are little buttons to click on the top of blogs but I couldn't find one on yours. Let me know, k?

  3. Well done missus!!! I'm sure your brick, ahem, I mean bread will be yummy!! Delia eat your heart out! Xx

  4. We all love food too much in this house, and usually the wrong sort...all Angel's teenage friends love to visit cos I can't resist stock up/baking treats! Interesting to read the possible genetic link again - my Mum would not cook with offal as she didn't like the feel of it - I'd never thought about that before..

  5. Brilliant Jean! My son's taste was the opposite to Bob's. He called anything mashed or pureed 'hairy' and would only eat hard food, like crackers for such a long time. Funny thing is the food issues actually reduced over time and now at 17 he pretty much eats anything (apart from ham)!!! Great blog as always, Emma xxx

  6. @ james, you're a man of few words lol
    @ Candace, I love to make people helps with all the dark stuff. There's a box on the right hand side of my blog saying 'follow' with google friends connect. That should sort you out
    @Taz, the brick was surprisingly edible...well, I'm still alive anyway
    @Blue Sky, the sensation of touching food only occurred to me yesterday...doh! I may move in with you if you like baking goodies...
    @Emma, pml at hairy food...good to hear that the food issues have lessened over the years

  7. hehehe jean, same here, major sensory issues with tyexture, i use lates gloves for everything, and papier machet which is used round the clock at work, i run for the hills, wet paper, slimey glue yuck

    fair play i may be asking for tips from you xx

  8. Fab blog again Jeanie. Food issues are still big in our house. Like Emma's wee man we prefer hard & crunchy. Only yesterday my 14 yr old had a strop because his beans were touching his meat,lol.
    Looking forward to your next installment,xx Vicki

  9. Well done Jean....getting down n dirty!!!

    It is a very good point that you make. We help our children overcome their sensory issues so if we have similar ones then we should work on them too. our kids show us that it's possible. Before ya know it Sir Bob will be varying his menu just like WiiBoy ;-)

    Oh, and thanks for the preview of teenage angst and weirdness... I simply can't wait :P Groan.....!! xx Jazzy

  10. when get free morning this wk am gonna sit down and read all ur blog...the times i pop over they are soo worth reading...u shud do it for a living...simplistic, witty and REAL...found myself analysing myself reading it...and OMG do i av sensory issues round cooking/food too...or mayb its called laziness lol...we lucky babs has no food issues and eats pretty much everything..and i kid u not..eats veggies first before anything else...def not a 'normal' child lol...fair play to u facin up to ur 'fears' no stoppin u now...will b bakin all round u for the country markets...b round later for a slice of apple tart with a cup of ur finest...xx

  11. @ coolkid, slimy wet paper would have me running for the hills with you
    @Vicki, beans touching meat is just wrong
    @ jazzygal, to prepare for the teenage years, I suggest you start saving and book a 7 year round the world crusie

  12. @ sesame would love to have you drop by...I can guarantee plenty of tea...the apple tart could be hit or miss tho lol. Lovely to hear from you XXX

  13. The sensory stuff reigns supreme for me too, so much so that our tutor passed a comment one day 'I wonder where he gets it from?!' with mild sarcasm *blush* (why should I hold the yucky squashy jelly thingy ball, I don't HAVE to!!.

    Oh Jean, you are raising the bar for the rest of us, again, and shaming us into it. Just don't know if I can join you this time around, but I will come test your breeze block anytime :D


  14. God you are brillant Jeannie xx

    Ps: give me directions and I will come over and show you ten ways of cooking with 3 kinds of mince- you don't have to touch it!

  15. @ Jen, those sensory toys are am abomination...maybe I should do a Jamie Oliver style "Get autie parents cooking" series
    @ Hammie, is one of those methods getting someone else to do it ? xxx

  16. I just adore your way with words jeanie. I think my hatred of cooking is more laziness, but fair play to you for getting in there and doing it! Hope it tasted nice for u now

  17. Oh Jean, I totally identify with this, I hate touching meat of any description or anything that is slimy, I don't mind baking for some reason, possibly because I enjoy eating cakes more than meat lol. Hope your brick turned out to be somewhat edible. xxx

  18. Two words Jean - bread machine!
    I have a friend (neurotypical + neurotic) who just can't touch raw meat! When she went to uni in another city and I visited, she had bought a chicken for me to cook, she was desperate. But who am I to laugh - I have no sensory issues with cooking (love it) but have a good few "issues" with balance and coordination. I've been known to have a fit if somebody else gets remotely close to the edge of a cliff!

  19. @ Claire, the bread was surprisingly nice!
    @ Andra, I certainly don't seem to be alone lol
    @ Truf, hope you took some good Bulgarian wine to yr uni friend...and that you can avoid cliffs at all costs

  20. God Jean, I gag at the smell of flour, I hate the sensation of rubbing butter into it, drives me nuts and it is impossible to get it out from under my fingernails. However, am also very greedy so I bought a breadmaker and decided to rise above the horror (rise above...bread...get it??)and make the pastry for the nice things. I still have wobbly days though so well done for manning up and making the breeze block/bread!

  21. Jean, my husband and I are really into cooking, and whereas I avoid some extremes - I won't eat offals! - he will eat pretty much anything. Both our kids have gotten more picky as they grew older. It's a major pain. Max also has sensory issues, of course, and refuses to eat most cooked vegetables. He will picked minced onion out of a bolognese sauce! If I put a pot of ratatouille on tbe table he immediately informs me that he doesn't like it. One thing that made a difference once was this. My husband was cooking a tagine with peas, and he got Max to shell them. He took great pride in the job, even gathering all the empty shells to put them in the bin. And come the evening, he actually ate his peas! So maybe you could try to get your kids cooking too!

  22. @ Alison, I can always rely on you to be equally as dysfunctional as me (what a relief!)...btw, I was chatting to a few pals on Sat night and they look forward to yr comments as much as my blog...maybe it's time you got writing...
    @ Sandrine...great idea...I think I'll have to master a few skills myself first tho xxx

  23. Sandrine, what is it with children and onions - mine do exactly the same!

  24. Truf - I don't know. Maybe they just think of them as superfluous vegetables that they shouldn't have to worry about! But my daughter actually loves them, which is strange...

  25. Maybe we should write together-vast feminist tracts involving colour coded storage boxes that may or may not contain a selection of autistic children...

  26. @ Truf & Sandrine, the rules seem to change on a daily basis
    @ Alison, I'm too tired for the feminism stuff, but I'm there with the kid-filled colour coded boxes

  27. Can I just say, that was wonderful!

    I'll be back!


  28. @ Barbara, you certainly can, and I look forward to your return XXX

  29. Jean, I love the sound of the bread.
    I am with you and the food fads, mother of God, we need patience... and a healthy sense of humour which you have in spades.
    Enjoyed this.xx

  30. @ Brigid, really glad you enjoyed this XXX

  31. Your blog is so funny. I love how you threw in the stylist! I have a 15 month old and before she was born I couldn't understand how parents got hung up on whether they ate or not but now I get it x

  32. @ Musings, cheers m'dear xxx

  33. Oh Jean- you're hilarious!
    I'm slowly working my way through your blogs.....I'm LOVING them :D
    ANd yes.....we have similar food "issues" here LOL

  34. @ Fiona, thank you so much. It's lovely to see you here XXX

  35. Food is a tough one with kids like ours. In my case, however, I'm the one restricting my kid's diet. No gluten, no dairy, not much soy. It's really hard to find things she's willing to eat that are "safe" for her. Sigh. However, the alternative is letting her eat everything and dealing with the leaky gut. No thanks!!!

    Great Blog Gem!

  36. Here via 'blog gems'. I sympathise. I hate touching raw meat and hate having dough stuck all over my hands. My aspie Nipper is sooo faddy with his food that it's a miracle we get him to eat anything some days!

  37. @ Dani, good on you for trying the gf/cf diet. We tried it for a month, but it made no difference to our dude. It ain't for the faint-hearted!!
    @ Tilly, it's a universal one
    @ alan, thanks!

  38. hehehe, loved reading this again. I am still shouting 'sensory issues' at you and I still haven't done anything about mine!! Jen