Autism, food battles, & fish sticks!

It is no secret that children with autism quite often struggle with food.  Look, smells, texture, taste, all play a part.  Their scope of what they will eat can be small and concentrated in one group.  Pastas, sweets, salty, etc.
Food is an area where I started noticing that David had struggles from an early age.  With purees, I offered a wide variety of foods and often, since it takes an average of 15 times for an infant to acquire a taste of something.
No matter how many times over the course of about 10 months in the puree stage, he never would get used to vegetables most fruits, and meats.
Mainly he loved oatmeal, applesauce, peaches, and macaroni and cheese purees. 
It was incredibly frustrating.  When I tried introducing more textured food as he matured, he HATED them.  He gagged on most things that infants and toddlers love.  Those puffs?  Not so much!  Little crackers.  No way!  He did love the cheese puff like Gerber Graduates.  He would eat those.  And Cheerios.  He finally got a taste for dry cereal and he loved that.  Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Fruit Loops [he loved the Cascadian Farms brand].

Now most children adore spaghetti, or so it seems.  The day I introduced him to it cut up very small, he gagged and gagged and finally refused.  I kept offering it over the course of the next month.  Same reaction.  Anytime we had spaghetti over the coming months and years, same reaction.  He just couldn't and didn't do it or want it.
He was a good 15/16 months before he would even eat any foods with texture and by foods I mean mainly macaroni and cheese.  And even then, it was just the boxed kind.  He hated the creamy kind you make, the kind you buy, the kind you get at restaurants.  He hated the kind that was anything but the small elbow macaroni with the powdered cheese packs. 
As the months went on, we found he did like some other soft textured foods like bread [but heaven forbid a crust was on there!], pancakes and waffles, and Alfredo!  Basically soft foods.  He would occasionally get a happy meal and rarely eat all the fries, but he loved the nuggets.  A plus!  He ate a meat!

At 2 years old I gave him some peanut butter and he fell in love with that.  He loved PB&Js.  So our scope had grown to PB&Js, cereals, pastas, chips, and gummies. 
As always we offered, had him try bites at each meal, all met with gags, smelling, inspecting, and refusing. 

I admit, it was hard sometimes.  Especially because at this point we knew something was up, but were not exactly sure what.  Later around 3 years old we would discover first, that he had Sensory Integration Disorder.  This explained so much about his eating habits.  The therapists that worked with him really educated me and I finally understood.

While I continued to offer a wide variety of foods, I didn't worry so much.  I was okay with what he ate.  At least he was eating. 
He is 9 years old now and his horizons are broadening!  He now eats quite a bit. 
Fruits: cantaloupe, watermelon, apples [minus the peels], peaches, grapes.
He LOVES spaghetti now.  But not with meat sauce.  He mainly still likes only chicken and lunch meat like ham and turkey. 
He'll eat meatloaf if he has ketchup.  He's gotten to were he will eat a half of hamburger now, minus the cheese.
He likes black beans and refried beans.  He likes the chicken and rice combo I make with cream of chicken soup. 
He'll eat sausage gravy [no biscuits]

A few days ago I decided to get fish sticks.  He's never like fish when we've made it.  Then I remembered when I was young, my mom always made fish sticks and mac-n-cheese. 
Because he loves mac-n-cheese I thought I'd try to throw the fish sticks into the dinner just to see.  I didn't have high hopes.
He ate 2!  TWO!!  I was overjoyed. 
Now, if you haven't figured it out, I'm not really all that "crunchy"  [I used to be], I'm not overly worried about every thing being natural or whole.  I'm just glad he eats!
So finding another food he liked was a battle won! 
We actually are not a seafood kind of family.  Every so often I'll make talapia.  But he's never eaten it!

 It's nice to look back in retrospect and see the progress.  When you're in the moment, the day to day grind, you can often ask "why am I even doing this?"
As much as I asked that so many times, I still would have him try a bit.  I only ask for one bite. 
There were times, like the day he finally did start liking spaghetti, were we sat at the table for 30 minutes.  I calmly told him he needed to try one bite.  He cried and cried, sat there and refused, then finally tried a bite. 
He then exclaimed "Mom, I LOVE it!!!!!"
This was just 2 years ago!  It took him a good 5 years of being exposed over and over and over, to end up loving it.  Battle won!

If there any parents out there struggling with the same thing.  Don't give up.  I can't promise they will ever like something.  But keep exposing them!  Keep showing them.  Have them touch it.  Let them play with it [it's just food and will wash off].
Maybe one day they will like something new! 
Don't give up!  Don't give up!!!!


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