Friday, May 8, 2009

Living Autistic: Taste and Texture

No where else in our bodies is there such a combination of our senses than the mouth. Taste works in tangent with smell and then we add textures felt with our sensitive tongues. How does this affect autistic living? Remember that most to all of our senses are heightened in various areas of sensitivity. That means that we are still going to have different likes and dislikes amongst each other. We will, however, be able to taste and feel things in foods that a typical person will miss. We will also be excessively sensitive in our like or dislike of those experiences.

I hate liver. I hate it's dry dusty feel and I have trouble putting a word to it's flavor. I really don't like lima beans either because they turn into a mouth drying silt as you eat them. I don't enjoy anything that's going to dry my mouth out, but there are some that I manage my way around because I can add to them. Turkey and pot roast fall into that category, and yes, I know they can be prepped to be less dry too. Then there's raspberries. I get a bad after taste from them that lingers and annoys me.

When it comes to our autistic kids and eating we can have quite a challenge. Always encourage trying the new foods, at least a good bite. Approach with all new things gently as they area always a threat to routine, at first. If you can put trying new things into the routine, you may find yourself with a demand for something new on a regular basis. I've seen it happen.

The bottom line to new foods with your child in autism is trial and error. It doesn't really matter why they don't like it, if you can get them to try. Is it texture or flavor? I find that may be trying to dig too deep for your own peace of mind. Keep it simple, like or don't like, and move on.

The flip side of our interesting taste and texture sensitivies is a strange set of behaviors where our children put odd things in their mouths. With sensory disorders, a person may find very strange or inedible things quite tasty. I knew of one child who ate toilet paper. She liked the texture as it touched her tongue and apparently the flavor of paper was desirable after that. Reports are abundant on strange eating practices. Some are dangerous and require intervention. Some are fairly harmless and can be reasoned out with time. Some even require treatment or heavily controlled environment.

I think it's safe to say from my own experiences, that handling two senses like that at once has a profound effect on our likes and dislikes with things we eat. It also affects behavior and reactions. I encourage you, though, not to just take the safe path and only make the same foods over and over again. That will only lend to rigidity in social settings with food as they grow.

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