Before Kane’s diagnosis, Jeff and I used to joke that he was a poisoned dictator in a past life, for two main reasons:
1. He bossed us around.
2. He smelled everything before he ate it.

Food rules are tricky. There is a sensory component to them, tied to sensitivities with taste, smell, and texture. Sometimes the rules arise from the sensory challenge; other times, they arise as other rules do, from a single point of perception.

Some children on the autism spectrum will only eat two or three foods. Kane has a broader palate than that, but he will boycott foods or food combos that break the rules, meaning he would rather not eat at all than try them. My general rule of thumb is to introduce new foods at a slow pace and provide healthful options. This is an area where I pick my battles. I also accept that I will not always know or understand the food rules.

The following are some of the current ones in our house:

Certain foods go with certain foods.
For example, jam goes on biscuits. It does not go on toast.
I don’t care what the Sound of Music song says: Tea with jam, jam and bread, bread and jam.
And if we have bacon, we must also have biscuits.
(With jam.)

Certain foods are allotted for certain times of the week.
Pizza is a Friday night thing in our house. But not just any pizza. Papa Murphy’s take and bake pizza.
Jeff and I tried to get take-out pizza one Friday from a local restaurant that, on any other night, would have been considered supremely awesome.
It was not considered awesome. We were also not considered awesome. I could have eaten in my closet and would have enjoyed that evening more.
(Jeff is now known by name at Papa Murphy’s.)

Certain foods are okay only at certain times of the day.
Sandwiches are not okay for dinner, even if they’re being eaten by us.
The one exception is pizza. Pizza is okay for lunch or dinner. Or lunch and dinner. Or snacks. So, pretty much any time. And is employed as such.
Pizza is my bitch.
(I am totally kidding, pizza. You know I couldn’t live without you.)

Foods that were okay for years are now forbidden.
Like chicken nuggets. They were okay at one time in our house. Now they are only okay if we are eating out, and tenders are preferred.
But mini pancakes… oh, how you taunt me. I still want to know where we went wrong. Kane ate them for at least 2 years. We had our routine with the syrup…quick swirl around the 6 outer ones, a dot in the 7th middle one. Suddenly, syrup couldn’t touch the plate or we had to wipe it up. Then, syrup wasn’t allowed at all. Finally, the mini pancakes were banished.
I do have a rule now that with every fruit that is rejected, a new one must be adopted.
(I’m at about a 75/25 adoption rate, in my favor.)

Some foods are not allowed in sight until other foods are finished.
Mandarin oranges are a staple fruit for dinner. However, they are treated much like the cheese course in a French restaurant. They are to appear only after the entrée and before the dessert. If they appear at any other time, or if they can be seen from the chair from which one is perched to enjoy said entrée, they are banished to the kitchen.
Cheese is also banished.
(Unless it’s on pizza.)

Certain foods are to be eaten with hands.
Texture is a big thing. I could go into many of the oral variations that result in near-vomitous facial expressions, like the time he discovered Lipton soup mix onions in his hamburger, but the desire to touch food is another part of the equation.
For example, if mandarin oranges (What? Back so soon? ) are eaten with a spoon, no one may look at the dining patron.
(I’d rather not look the other times. In this case, a spoon delights me.)

Fuzzy food rules.
This is a category where all perplexing food rules go for a time out.
“I will not eat until the sun goes down” is one of my favorites.
I have never wanted to live closer to the equator than when this rule came about. Fine in the winter. Not okay in the summer.
There is a sister rule called “I will not go to sleep until the sun goes down.”
(God bless the Alaskans.)

Some smells are forbidden.
Kane will not know what these smells are until he experiences them, which means I will not either.
Some things are obvious candidates for exclusion, like roasted broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Things I think will bug him from across the room? Blue cheese, for example? Never! Roasted garlic pasta sauce, however, was our undoing.
Other innocuous items are too, but they’ll shift like the wind. Then, as the hysterics die down, he’s eating at a different table and we’re inhaling our food so we don’t get thrown out of the house.
(Like naughty parents with smelly foods.)

There are only two green vegetables.
1. Pickles.
2. Pesto.
I still don’t know how we did #2, but basil is now my favorite herb.
(Do not nitpick me on the technicality of either of these two things as vegetables.)

He loves the idea of other vegetables so much that he really, really, really, really, really wants to try them.
“Mommy, I very promise. I will love to-mah-to and let-tuss sandwiches.”
“Mmm hmm. Did you see that on Peppa Pig?”
“We can have a picnic, and we’ll eat to-mah-to and let-tuss sandwiches.”

He is genuinely excited. For a brief moment in time, I am too.
I make the lettuce and tomato sandwiches. Jeff and I enjoy them. We even put pickles on them.

Kane smells his.
He licks it.
He smells each item separately.
He licks each item separately.
He eats a few pickles.
He eats some potato chips.
He talks about it.
He talks to it.
He says how much he is going to love it.
And after working up a relationship with it, he even takes a bite.

Then, he gags and almost throws up.

“Maybe I’ll try them when I’m older.”
“You got it, buddy.”

About Tabitha MacGowan

Hi, I’m Tabitha. I’m an author, autism parent, and advocate of acceptance, compassion, and love. I believe that we are all here for each other and we can co-create the world we want to live in. My book, Phig and the Eaven Prophecy, is a delicious fantasy written from the perspective of a boy on the autism spectrum. I invite you to join me and be a part of my magical world!

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