Day 18: Autism Awareness Blogathon

Today I am co-blogging with That Cynking Feeling. We got to chatting last week and found that we are both doing a blogging marathon for autism this month. Se we decided to choose a topic and both of us are writing about it from our different perspectives. Here is hers (and you’ve got to love a title like this): Smells Like Toddler Spirit and here is mine:

‘Time for dinner! Come and sit at the table’.  I am ignored.

I walk over to L who is sitting playing with his ribbon and occasionally giving a sideways glance at the television. I turn the tv off.  I get down to his level, eye to eye, make sure I have his attention and say ‘dinner time, tv is finished, come and sit at the table now please’.

L looks at me and smiles but makes no move towards the table. I go over to the kitchen, get his bowl of dinner and take it to him. I put the bowl under his nose. He glances at it momentarily, but gives the food a good hearty sniff. Suddenly, he is alert. I whisk the bowl back to the table and repeat ‘time for dinner L, come and sit at the table’. He looks at me and smiles, looks at where the bowl is and walks over to his place at the table. He sits down, picks up his spoon and starts to eat his meal. With every spoonful he becomes more enthusiastic, more aware that he is hungry. He eats the entire bowl of food.

‘More dinner or finished?’ ‘More dinner’ another bowl of curry and rice goes the way of the first. ‘More dinner or finished?’ ‘Finished Mum’, ‘OK, bowl in the sink please’. He checks if he might be able to get away with not putting his bowl in the sink, but realising that I am 100% attending to his every move, he picks up his bowl and drops it into the sink.

‘Thank you darling’ He goes back to the ribbon which stayed in his hand through the entire meal.

It’s a routine we have worked on for a couple of years now. He eats about 80% of the meals I make for him. This time last year it was about 50%. He is not what I would call a picky eater like some people on the spectrum are, but he certainly has a distinctive set of preferences.

For my boy, his food must be soft and wet – not hard and crunchy. No biting or heavy chewing. He won’t eat bread, biscuits, crackers, pies, pastry etc. He WILL eat, a ragingly hot curry, casseroles, sausages, breakfast cereal, baked beans, pancakes, rice pudding & cake. He is what is called a sensory seeker. He seeks sensation. His ribbon and various other stimming activities give him the sensory feedback that help him to be calm and happy.

In my many years B.C. (before children) I had never heard about sensory processing. I thought there were 5 senses – everybody said so and I believed them. Turns out there are 7 and I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few more years, they decided there were more.

In case you were wondering, the two mystery senses are the proprioceptive and the vestibular. Proprioception is all about knowing/feeling what our body parts, muscles and joints are doing and where they are. The vestibular sense is all about where our bodies are in space, about gravity, balance and movement.



feeling the vestibular system kick in

Sensory processing is all about how the brain processes the information we receive from our environment. You might remember me describing L’s Cortical Vision Impairment in the I Knew Better post. So I knew he had visual processing issues, but it turns out that all of his sensory processing is impacted.

image credit: Family Circle 1959

L needs to smell his meal before he is able to decide if he will eat it or not, or if he is even hungry. The ‘we eat with our eyes’ saying does not apply to him.  Most of the time he does not even realise that he is hungry or thirsty. Luckily he will usually eat a good breakfast, but for a while last year he would then go all day without eating or drinking anything except some bathwater. Great!

I was able to get some support from the Feeding Clinic at our local children’s hospital. There you get to meet with a Speechie, an OT and a Dietician and they help you to put a plan together to widen the menu, expand the sensory diet and help you with putting some rules in around food and eating.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • only serve one meal – don’t go making the old favorites if the meal you have served is refused
  • keep offering new foods, but only one at a time – you need to present food at least 20 times
  • stay upbeat about food/dinner/eating – try not to get emotional, desperate or angry
  • be as creative as you can by moving incrementally towards a new food – if they like chicken curry, try beef curry or indian or thai

For any one who is interested, the book ‘The Brain That Changes Itself’ by Norman Doidge is a remarkable adventure into the world neuroplasticity and the now very famous ‘Out of Sync Child Has Fun’ by Carol Stock Kranowitz is an incredible resource for parents.


22 thoughts on “Sensational

  1. Great tips on eating for autistic kids. My boys are pretty good eaters. . . . . I tried a stuffed tofu/spinach the other day that my daugther inhaled, one of the twins ate ok, and the other would have nothing to do with it. . . . he could taste it through the marinara sauce. 🙂

      • Udon? Have you tried yakisoba? I can take a picture of it – friend Japanese noodles that my boys really like. Also, we do a ‘chow fun’ (Chinese noodle dish you can find at PF Changs) dish that is way easy, everyone loves and the kids will devour. The noodles are tougher to find and I believe they aren’t gluten free so it’s a every few months type of dish but very popular. The tofu/spinach was excellent – I finished it off yesterday. 🙂

          • Sure – I have the chow fun noodles. Our local Asian store stocks up on them so when they have them, I buy like ten packages and stash them. They are pretty hard to find though, I know of only one store around us that has them. The yakisoba noodles on the other hand – you’ll find them in almost every Asian store and in half the grocery markets nowadays. Two of the four local markets around us have them and they are by the udon in the refrigerated section. I think they are called “friend noodles.” I’ll take a picture of them. We actually started a blog about Hawaii and are slowing putting Hawaiian Food on it ( so I’m going to make those dishes + a number of others and post pictures on there. I think the next one I’m doing is either kalua pork or Chow Fun. We’ll see what I feel like eating over the weekend. 🙂

            We did an easy dessert recipe that my kids LOVE. They want me to make it for their classes but it’s tough to tell two little boys that it’s not the easiest thing to bring homemade ice cream to school in the middle of the day. 🙂

  2. So great you have linked with others world wide and sharing blog topics. I am so aware i need to read more about sensory integration. Thanks to both for your links and info on this. My GP recommended the Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel tonight. I even found him on facebook and he has some interesting links and podcasts etc to listen too. Once again a great post. How great L has a mother who also is a creative cook. Could smell the curry all the way across town. Your on the down hill run now. Hope you are enjoying this challenge, it will be over before you know it.

  3. I love curry! I wish my kids would give it a shot!

    Colin has gotten more adventurous since I moved in and started cooking homemade meals and introducing new foods. I can’t find any common ground in what he loves (outside of carbohydrates – as long as it’s not french fries, he will eat just about any carb-based food). At first, I thought he was opposed to certain textures, seeds, etc. But he has two new favorite foods! Strawberries and okra! I don’t understand either of these choices, but I’m always reaching for ways to get fruits and veggies into his body, so I’ll take it!

    Random thought: I love when you say little things like “speechies”. Your occasional Aussie words make me nostalgic (in a good way).

      • I’ll never forget the first time my ex made a grocery list. I was about to walk out the door and I looked at the list… stopped… turned around and went right back to him. “I don’t understand what half of these items are!”

        Now I catch myself using these words from time to time. lol

  4. This was a fantastic post. I had not had a good understanding of proprioceptive or vestibular senses, so what a resource! Thank you for posting this. I am also envious of L’s willingness to eat. Both of my children (one NT, the other autistic) are exceptionally picky eaters. And I have yet to master the art of getting the little one to sit at the table, so I’m curious how you gained cooperation on that front.

    • If you thought my descriptions were good – I found this wonderful download which appears to have been put together by a local government in the UK.
      As for L’s eating, he wasn’t always so willing. He has been chronically underweight (below the percentile growth charts). It’s taken a massive effort to get where we are. With sitting at the table, it’s been another long process, especially because L’s language skills are limited at this point, so little/no conversation, but LOTS of descriptive praise from me. Definitely start small with some food that they love. So sit at the table with a yummy cake or whatever gets their taste buds popping. Make a ritual of it. It’s always L’s job to put his bowl in the sink when he is finished and now my 2yo is doing this as well. Not because I tell him to but because he wants to follow and comply with the routine.

  5. Great post, Rose! I’m so happy for you that L will eat as much as he seems to of “home food.” That sure isn’t the case with my Sam. Most of his meals are take-out/fast-food. That gets real expensive.

    • Oh that would be hard! L is the opposite – there is nothing at the golden arches that interests him but he does enjoy some good Thai. I do a lot of cooking for him and my New Years resolution this year was to not throw out so much food. Having the meals that you have cooked, just to tempt him, rejected at first sniff is very disappointing.

  6. Hurray-we did it! How interesting that, for your child, smell is a way to grab attention. It just goes to show that autism takes many forms.
    Thank you for suggesting the co-blogging idea. Not only do we have different geographical perspectives, we are at different points in our journey with autism. I know that I’ll learn so much by continuing to follow your blog.

  7. Great information. My son will only eat discrete foods – no cassaroles. But he will eat any discrete ingredients. Loves calamari, shrimp, and crab. Not a fan of oysters, but I dont blame him.

    Glad to be reading your blogothon!

  8. Pingback: The Finale | love many trust few

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