Without further ado, Owen's current cast of cafeteria characters:
Owen's lunch is almost exactly the same every single day.
Every. Single. Day. He has the following packed in his lunch box:
- a thermos of milk
- a jar of applesauce
- a container of something crunchy
- a spoon
- an ice pack
The only thing that changes in his lunch is the Thermos Funtainer (we have 3 "boy ones" in rotation) (I once sent Paige's Hello Kitty one in his lunch box and it came back untouched, he refused to drink from it). I am THRILLED (like, hallelujah, rejoicing!) that he drinks milk from those Thermos bottles because for the first 3 years of school he would only drink the Horizon organic milk boxes, in either vanilla or strawberry. He still LOVES those milk boxes, but now we do those only as an occasional treat. Plain milk in a Thermos Funtainer is much easier on our grocery budget (not to mention, less sugar).
The stainless jar for his applesauce is a more recent purchase. There was a time that Owen would only eat applesauce from the little single serve containers. With a straw poked through the lid. It took years of work for him to eat it with a spoon. And then another year before he'd eat the same applesauce (Mott's natural) from a jar, rather than the single serve container.
Ever since Owen braved to eat jarred applesauce from a regular container I have been searching for the right container to pack it in. You wouldn't believe how many I have tried and discarded. My requirements were pretty simple: something in the 6-9 ounce size range, leak free, easy to open. Well, I did find something that met those requirements, but they were totally not durable and would crack and need replacing. Like every three weeks. Finally, finally, I have found the perfect applesauce jars for Owen.
These are made by Lunchbots. They hold 8 ounces each. They are not big and bulky like the Thermos Funtainer food jars, so Owen is able to grasp them better to easily open and close. They don't leak. They will never crack. Hello. We finally found a winner.
The contents of Owen's "something crunchy" container changes day to day. Today he had pretzels. Sometimes it is crackers (saltines, Ritz, Goldfish). Sometimes it is corn chips (like Fritos, or the Trader Joe's version of). In truly desperate "oh no, our cupboard is bare!" times he gets plain Cheerios as his crunchy thing, but being that he eats dry plain Cheerios for breakfast every.single.day I try not to double him up on that if it's at all avoidable.
If you can't tell, eating is a huge struggle for Owen. And for us, as his parents, and as a whole family. We can't walk into any ole restaurant we like and sit down for a meal unless we know they serve french fries. Yes, french fries. That is the only (ONLY) food from a restaurant Owen will eat. If we are going somewhere unfamiliar we have to pack a lunch box for him to take along.
Owen has made eons of progress, in many areas, since being diagnosed with autism at age three. There has not been much progress in the eating department at all. Things like eating applesauce with a spoon instead of sucking it through a straw, allowing that applesauce to be in any old bowl or container instead of the familiar pre-packaged single serving containers are HUGE milestones for him. Those seemingly small steps took years of work and tears (on all our parts) to achieve.
Not all kids with autism have enormous eating issues like Owen, but many do.
Owen is not your typical picky eater. Owen would starve rather than eat food outside his accepted circle of foods. And that is not an exaggeration. He would simply not eat.
Lately Owen has been open to smelling unfamiliar foods. This is a huge step for him, as food smells used to send him running for the hills. We take what we can get. Small steps. Baby steps. Itty bitty infantile teeny tiny steps.
Owen's lunch, all packed up and ready to be zipped. Yep, that's the same lunch box he's used since Kindergarten. :)
Thank goodness L.L. Beans lasts forever. I think we will get a couple more years from this yet.
So here we are, at the end of April. The end of Autism Awareness Month. I squeezed Owen's lunch in just under the wire!
Amy's final autism message, which also touches on the topic of food:
"Children with autism are 5 times more likely than other children to have problems eating. Often labeled "pickiness," these eating disorders are actually due to sensory issues (extreme sensitivity to tastes and textures), oral motor difficulties (problems chewing or swallowing), obsessive-compulsive disorder (always having to drink from the same cup or eat from the same bowl), food allergies or sensitivities, or a combination of all of the above.
My son has a very severe autism-related eating disorder. He has eaten only sweet potato/yams out of the same bowl for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the last seven or eight years now. We work with a doctor and mix in supplements to make sure he gets adequate nutrition, and we work on adding new foods with a combination of occupational and behavioral therapy. Happy Autism Month!"
Thank you for your support during this month of sharing about autism. :)
Supplies used to pack this lunch: