Thanksgiving. It is such a special time of year: a time of reflection, a time for reuniting with family, a time to share in a feast that we all enjoy so much.
Wait. Sometimes holidays like Thanksgiving are not enjoyed by all. Thanksgiving for some people with autism is a virtual nightmare. The break in routine, the smells, the noise, and all that hugging, is enough to cause a lot of anxiety.
For so many of us who are the caregivers of a person with autism, a large family gathering is a time to dread the conversation at the family meal, because we know it has the potential to revolve around the lone dinner roll on our kid's plate. All that delicious food and our kid takes a dinner roll. He does not eat turkey, would never try something green or orange in color, and would physically gag if you were to put a vegetable on his plate. And so he and his dinner roll become the topic of conversation. Again. And we are bombarded with questions, made to feel guilty and defensive, and given advice about feeding our child.
We hear: "Have you tried making him take one bite?" And we respond with the best vomit story we have, because we HAVE thought of that and have tried it more than once. It did not work. We have to reassure great aunts and distant cousins that we have indeed taken our child to the doctor and he is physically very healthy, living on his diet of bread, potato chips and cheese pizza. And then we hear the most dreaded comment of all. It's the one that makes a lot of us moms bite our lip until it hurts. "If he were to get hungry enough he would eat". How hungry is "hungry enough"? One time my son went three days when he was three years old. He had a sore throat and didn't take a bite of food for three days. Think he was hungry enough? Other autism moms have similar stories. We HAVE tried all the things you could possibly think of to try, but autism wins, every single time. Autism wins. Our kids are different than your kids are and were.
Thanksgiving, a time to be thankful and count our blessings. I, for one, am very thankful for a son who has taught me to be a kinder person, a more patient person, a more giving person, a more loving person, and a more tolerant person. If you have someone in your life with special needs who refuses the feast this year and goes to sit with their dinner roll, please remember that his caregiver is doing the best that he/she can and would love to talk about almost anything at the dinner table except the lone dinner roll on his/her child's plate.
Note: This was written with many people in mind and because of the dozens and dozens of stories I've heard from my readers. It is no reflection of my own situation at this time. My family has long since accepted Tate's eating habits and are very understanding of it all.