Yeah, he's a picky eater. Yeah, his diet isn't great. Yeah, he knows Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal is not a food group. And yeah, even though he is hungry, he's still not going to eat your (insert anything here that is not Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal, Vanilla Oreos, Velveeta Shells and Cheese, pizza, apples or Pringles). It's not because he is "spoiled". It's not because we "give in to him". It's not because we "always let him win". And it's not because your mac and cheese sucks, it's because he has sensory processing difficulties and he is NOT going to eat it....not today, not tomorrow, not next Thursday. I hate to break it to you, but, it's not about ME, it's not about YOU, it's about HIM.
Although you may think, "He will eat it when he gets hungry enough", chances are, he won't. And as a mother who understands him, advocates for him and loves him, I'm never gonna test your ignorant, callous theory. Unless of course I can try the theory out on you first? Would you be willing to try "just a bite" of some rotting food out of a dumpster on a hot summer day? Because, no offense, that's exactly what your mac and cheese smells and tastes like to him.
These sensory struggles come as a result of his autism, not as a result of poor parenting or because he is a "stubborn, strong willed child". His sensory system is on heightened alert because his brain processes his sense of smell, taste, sight and touch differently than you and I do, so not eating your mac and cheese is not meant to offend you, it's meant to protect him. Eating what he is use to, what he knows he likes, makes him feel safe. Even though your mac and cheese may have won you a prize at the local ladies auxillary function, your mac and cheese to my son is an unpredictable threat.
When he was little, he would yell, "no, no, no" when an undesirable, new, threatening food was placed before him. Now that he is older and has found his voice, he is better able to explain how threatening your mac and cheese is to his sensory system. "My brain and my body will not let THAT food go in my mouth." It doesn't matter if it's a stinky, hard boiled egg, a delicious smelling, warm and gooey brownie, or your award winning mac and cheese, his brain and his body say "no" and I respect that, because I respect him. I just wish you would.
If perhaps you would read some of the articles, blog posts, and books I have suggested to you so that you can try and understand him and his sensory system better, maybe you would spend less time fighting him and more time relating to him. You might see how far he has come and not how far you believe he still has to go. You may see HIM and not your untouched mac and cheese. If you just tried to "get it", then maybe next time you are zipping through the grocery store you would just pick up a box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese and toss it in your cart rather than complaining about the wasted mac and cheese you made from scratch. The mac and cheese you believe "tastes so much better" than Velveeta's and the mac and cheese he refused to eat the last time he was at your house. And the time before that too.
To you and the ladies of your local auxillary, your mac and cheese may be "to die for", but, for Ryan and people who struggle with sensory processing, they believe your mac and cheese might just be what they die from. Don't take it personally. In fact, just take yourself out of the equation altogether because it's not about YOU, or your award winning mac and cheese, it's about HIM.
Next time we come to visit, just serve the Velveeta Shells and Cheese not because you are "giving in", "spoiling him" or "always letting him win", but, because you love him, respect him and are trying to understand him and his sensory sensitivities. Maybe by taking the time to educate yourself (if you actually read this) about this amazing person you love, you will be more aware, more accepting, and more understanding. Perhaps then, you will finally see HIM and not what is or isn't on his plate.
Ryan's Mom, aka, "The Enabler"