That’s how it goes doesn’t it? Well that’s how it will be in our house forever more. You see in our house, the third was a momentous occasion not to be sniffed at. Joseph ate a sandwich that did not consist of cheese spread.
Any autism parent will know about the food battles. The monotony of the same food EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Yep, you all know it. The problems it causes when eating out because there is nothing your child will eat and you cannot face the confrontation and succumb to the sensory needs of your child rather than attempting to introduce something new.
Way back in the day before we faced these issues, Joseph ate everything. I can’t recall the day it all stopped but over time I have tried a few subtle introductions of old foods. Each time, he has rejected it and in the main, I have accepted it. But a few years ago, I decided that Joseph would eat sandwiches again. I was fed up with taking cracker-bread out and about and decided that there was no reason why he couldn’t enjoy bread again. The first time, he wretched a little and I wasn’t sure whether I had completely misjudged this. After his initial look of horror, he ate it and we progressed from there. Wholemeal bread, bread-cakes and now he LOVES bread. But only eating sandwiches that consists of cheese spread causes problems because nobody stocks those in a cafe. You can’t just order a cheese spread sandwich off the menu and that’s always been my end goal, ordering something regular off the menu.
Although I usually plan these changes to the letter, today was completely off the cuff. Parenting failure meant there was no cheese spread and I’d bought a beef paste a few weeks ago with the intention of trying it out.
Yep, you read that right. Beef spread. Tried cheese before and that was a no go. Tried ham and that causes more obscene facial expressions than I can truly describe. I considered that maybe it was the texture of these foods and a spread may be the way to go.
I carefully spread the paste over the bread, taking care not to expose anything to the outer bread (Fuck My Life), in order to fool Joseph completely. Fool Joseph completely? Who the fuck am I trying to kid here? That child can smell a difference a hundred paces off. Despite casually placing the sandwich on the table and walking away, not wanting to make a big deal of it, he knew. Yes he knew. He peeled back the bread and said “what’s this?” I explained and told me quite assertively “I’m gonna have cheese spread, not THIS.” I calmly told him there was none left and if he ate it, I would be very pleased and he could eat three small bags of Haribo. Yep, I’m that parent who offers the bribes.
We had a couple of tears but nothing we both couldn’t handle. I even offered a couple of crisps (boy am I generous) for each mouthful he had, increasing the number I was offering in exchange for each bite. When he got to six he gave me THE EYE and told me he wasn’t going to ten. No flies on that child.
After half an hour, he had finished half of the sandwich. I told him if he ate it all, we could go shopping for a treat (bringing the big guns out now) but he told me he didn’t want one, so I called it a day.
That to me was a win and I’ll take it.
To all those parents who are horrified I would even attempt such a thing with a child with autism who has sensory difficulties, I know my child and I have not scarred him. If the bread scenario is anything to go by, it’ll be his new favourite food.
To those who question whether breaking a routine is possible. It is.
To those who wonder why I would subject my child to beef paste sandwiches. I have no idea and in all honesty, I was on the verge of wretching myself. The whiff of dog meat was the only thing I can compare it to and for that Joseph, I truly apologise.
Next time, we’ll try a salmon paste.
Tina is mum to a 9 year old boy Joseph who has autism. She recently won the Bloody Awesome Parents (BAPS) SEND Newcomer blogger award. She likes to give an honest (often sweary) account of their lives dealing with autism. You can follow her here on facebook or her blog here.