Autistics and new foods. We sniff. We scan. We ask “What’s IN that?” We may even poke it with a fork or touch it first. I’m more than certain our inability to hide our emotions makes for some great faces during all of this sniffing, prodding, and inspecting.
I want to start this blog by sharing something that my wonderful friend (and fellow Aspie) Aletheia Knights shared with me. After sharing this comical (but TRUE) link about “picky eaters” on her Facebook, she described the Autistic struggle with food better than I ever could.
Please check out the link and then read on. For those who don’t know me personally, #16 is a spot-on impersonation of me.
Did you really read the link above?. ^^
You did? Ok, read on.
My friend Aletheia says: “This is all so true. Like many people on the autism spectrum or with other sensory issues, I am a resistant eater – a term some medical professionals use to distinguish our issues from ‘picky’ eating. Most picky eaters can learn to broaden their tastes, and may feel comfortable trying a new food after having been exposed to it a few times. For resistant eaters, this is almost impossible. Trying anything outside our culinary comfort zone, whatever that may be, is almost unthinkable – it’s as if it doesn’t even quite register in the mind as falling into the category ‘food’ – and can be a tremendous source of anxiety. For many people, trying something new is a fun adventure; for me, it’s an actual accomplishment. If you tell me to eat what’s served or go to bed hungry, I won’t even have to think about it – I’m just tremendously relieved I have an option other than ‘eat it.'”
In the past, I have tried to describe the tremendous anxiety I feel at the thought of trying new food, but Aletheia nailed it. It is an anxiety I have carried with me my whole life. Even as a child, if a friend invited me to stay the night, I had to know what was for dinner first. Casserole – with all the foods mixed together? Without even asking my mom, I would say “Sorry. My mom says no.” Fried chicken and mashed potatoes? “Let me ask my mom!” 🙂
As I have gotten older, I realize that fear is irrational yet it is still there. Always there. The same way others fear teeny little mice (irrational too!), I fear new foods. The only difference is that it is acceptable to go running out of the room at the thought of a six ounce mouse. It is not acceptable to run out of the room at the thought of a six ounce dish of calamari. Calawhat? No thank you. Give me the mouse any day.
If it were just the food, I think I might be able to tackle it, but it’s the social pressure that comes with it. People EXPECT you to try new foods. They EXPECT you to want to eat your food mixed together and *gasp* touching. There is almost zero sympathy for those with food anxiety – regardless of your age. Children are mocked and belittled and told their feelings don’t matter “Just TRY it. Here…. open your mouth! What are you? A baby?” The mocking doesn’t stop when childhood ends. The social pressure ADULTS place on each other to try new foods (especially gourmet food) is as bad as the social pressure teenagers put on each other for sex or drugs or drinking. “Come on? Seriously? You won’t try it? One little bite isn’t gonna hurt you. You’d like it if you just tried it. Come on. You know you want it.” No. Actually, I know I do NOT want it. Thank you very much. My personal favorite is when they know you have an aversion to a certain food (mushrooms… *shudder*) and they tell you “But you can’t TASTE the mushrooms.” Yes. I guarantee you I can. When you find a certain flavor repulsive, it is even more distinguishable.
Whether someone is on the spectrum or not, please be considerate of their tastes. If they don’t want to try a new food, let it be. More for you, right? It doesn’t matter if they’re 8 or 98. It isn’t right to belittle or pressure someone into doing ANYTHING they don’t want to do. Just because it’s easy for you doesn’t mean it’s easy for me. Are you ready to carry a jumping spider in your palm? A long-tailed rat on your shoulder? A glorious smooth green snake around your neck? What about snuggling with a bat? Come on. Just try it. You know you want it.
I mean.. I would. 🙂 Who wouldn’t love a face like this:
A note to my readers (if you survived that gorgeous jumping spider). I just want to tell you that I continue to be amazed by you. All of you. I love when you connect with me on twitter and facebook. The letters you write me are so treasured. Your tweets and posts on facebook make me smile. I love when I see one that makes me say “I knew I wasn’t the only person that thought that!” I am just so blessed to have this opportunity to ‘meet’ all of you and so, so grateful for social media that has allowed us to connect. ❤ There is a whole *universe* of people like me out there. People just like you. My heart is just so full ❤