Anyone ever said to you, “don’t worry. If they’re hungr- hung- hungry- hungry, they will eat”? This week, we’re going to talk about why that is not necessarily true with autistic and neurodivergent kids, especially if they have sensory issues, like many of us do. So let’s dive in.
[00:00:56] So let me speak from personal experience where I say, if they’re hungry, they will eat, does not work for me, uh, and with myself, you know, if you present me with something that, for whatever reason, I’m having a sensory issue with, I’m not going to be able to eat it. Uh, sensory, sensitivities and sensory differences are very common in autistic people, and we can be more or less sensitive to a given sensory input.
[00:01:29] And that includes taste and texture. And taste and texture being tuned up or tuned down has a very big impact on how we interact with food. And because of that, sometimes there are just certain food textures and tastes that if I put them in my mouth, I will have an instant (gagging sound) , I’m going to be sick reaction and there is no way I can swallow it. Because it is the equivalent of swallowing something that my body says is not okay for me to eat and is dangerous.
[00:02:04] To elaborate on the sensory issues with relation to food – for myself, I like very, very bold, very, very flavorful foods and if I eat a food that is very bland, it is just gross. I can’t even swallow it it’s -blah.
[00:02:29] I am attracted to really spicy foods. Despite my digestive system, not agreeing uh, I eat it a lot. I love it.
[00:02:37] Um, but some autistic people are the opposite where they will prefer very, the, um, like- bland foods and the foods I like would be overwhelming to those autistic people. It just depends on if they’re hypo or hyper sensitive over – more sensitive or lessons that give to these particular – to taste to this particular sense.
[00:03:03] And then there’s texture, the texture part of food. Sometimes I’ll eat food just because I’m craving a certain texture. Like I want crunch, I want, uh, you know, warm, I want cold, you know, something like that. I want the sensory sensation of the food. Um, but you know, for example, like certain things like that are like soggy or the wrong kind of mushy, like -it can be really no, just now and like food that like, I feel like, I don’t know. It’s hard to explain it’s the wrong temperature. Um, It could just ruin the whole thing. I like my food really hot. Most of the time I have a hard time eating food if it’s cold -unless it’s pizza – because cold pizza is so good. Um, but it’s like, my food has to be really perfect and I’ve been called a picky eater for most of my life and I don’t – I feel like I’m that picky of an eater now. I’ve done my best to add more and more foods into my diet.
[00:04:08] But I mean, I guess picky eater is kind of accurate, but there’s a reason for the pickiness. I’m not being a picky eater just to be difficult and neither are autistic kids. If they’re giving you trouble with what they’re eating, uh, trust me.
[00:04:22] I struggle with this as an adult, it is frustrating. Uh, imagine how it is for your kids, ’cause they probably can’t explain this to you.
[00:04:31] The thing about this is for me, it can kind of vary from day to day. Like for example, if I am really tired, food is even less appetizing than usual. I actually don’t even eat food.
[00:04:50] I don’t eat breakfast. Breakfast is supposed to be the most nutritious meal of the day or whatever we’re supposed to eat breakfast. I am basically nauseous every morning when I wake up and I can’t eat until my brain is at a chance to wake up maybe hours later, uh, around lunchtime. I’ll figure out that I need to put some nourishment into my body, but usually I’ll just wake up and have a warm cappuccino and that’s about it for several hours, because I’m just not ready to process food. And actually, even if I’m hungry, for some reason in the morning, food just isn’t even right for me. Like, um, no, not like even right now, I’ve been up for a few hours and thinking about food other than popsicles, I’m not ready for that.
[00:05:40] So it can vary circumstantially day to day, week to week, it can go up and down and have periods through your life where it gets better, where it gets worse. Things can trigger things to get worse. Uh, so it’s a fluid fluxual situation that can kind of change over the years and what you’re sensitive to can change over the years and what you can tolerate can change over the years.
[00:06:06] So that’s not, I just, you know, there’s hope and things can change. Um, but it’s not something that may go away ever.
[00:06:17] And there’s another problem with, “Oh, they’ll eat when they’re hungry”. Uh, with adults and people like myself who are in charge of feeding ourselves when we are hungry, sometimes I won’t feed myself when I’m hungry. Uh, for a couple of reasons.
[00:06:34] One being sometimes I don’t realize I’m hungry because a lot of autistic people and neuro divergent people also have a little bit of a dissconnect sometimes between mind and body and some of our automatic responses that say, “Hey, you need to drink water.” “You need to eat.” “You need to go to the bathroom.”
[00:06:54] Some of us, myself included, don’t realize until the very last one that they need to do these things. And, and it’s like, Oh no I am already passing out. I guess I’m hungry. Um, or. Oh, I am feeling really dehydrated and sick. Like my head is hurting. I have a migraine. Oh, I,I let myself get dehydrated or, Oh yeah, goodness I have to run to the bathroom right now because I’m going to pee my pants.
[00:07:18] So sometimes those signals that are telling autistic or neurodivergent people that we need to do these things like eat may not work either. So there’s a chance that autistic child may not feel that they are hungry. So that’s another problem with this they’ll eat when they’re hungry assumption that is often untrue.
[00:07:40] I mentioned there were two reasons. I don’t feed myself as an autistic adult, the other one being executive functioning and this is hard to explain, and if you have it, you’ll get it and if you don’t have it, you’ll probably think we’re just being lazy. But sometimes, like I get, like, if I realize I’m hungry and I’ll know I’m hungry, I’ll go and look at the things I have to make and if it is too many steps to make or for some reason, I just like, can’t latch onto like a decision of what to make, I just won’t make anything, and I just won’t eat at all… and I’ll want to eat and know I need to eat and I just won’t do what I need to do… and it is a very frustrating situation I find myself in. Um, I eat a lot of popsicles from the freezer because I just grabbed them and cut the tops off.
[00:08:43] And they are also a nice sensory friendly food that I love, but they have no nutritional value. And these ice pops that I eat all day, they are one of my favorite things because they’re yummy and easy. So yeah, I’m not feeding myself the best nutrition at all times.
[00:09:01] A lright everybody. Thank you so much for hanging out with me today.
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