Me: “Are you going to try turkey on Thanksgiving?”

Colin (my son): “I don’t think so.”

Me: “Well, Aunt Jennifer is making Tofurkey. It is like pretend turkey.”

Colin: “Then I will ‘pretend’ eat it.”

“Selective eater.” Yeah… that is a nice way to put it. You will receive advice about this one all day long, and it will always be the same thing. “If he gets hungry enough, he will eat it.” Maybe so with some kids, but with kiddos on the spectrum, sometimes you just have to wave the white flag and do the best you can. The sensory aversion can just be stronger than the hunger. I have littered this post with pictures of my attempts at being creative with food.  Most met with rejection.

“Starfish”

I can’t tell you how many people have given me books about clever recipes to up the nutrition in some kid-friendly foods. Just chant to yourself, “They mean well. They mean well.”

Let me just share some of these suggestions…

Swap mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower: How did this ever get published? Yeah, no one will ever notice that the mashed potatoes now smell like feet. That being said, I still can’t get the kid to eat potatoes, and they are full of delicious, booty-expanding carbs! This is a great source of shame for my Irish husband, who still holds out hope that when the kid turns 21, he will then have a palate refined enough to enjoy a Guinness with his father.

Mix zucchini into meatloaf: Yeah, because all kids love meatloaf. “And I would do anything for love, but I won’t to that.” In this case, “that” refers to the futile effort of trying to convince the kiddo that meat can be molded into a bread shape and be palatable. Then he will not only avoid the meatloaf, he will stop eating bread.

Hide veggies under the cheese in your pizza: OK, let us just gloss over the fact that my son won’t even touch pizza. Under the cheese, really? Are you fooled when the kid hides the peas under his napkin? Didn’t think so.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. I read an entire recipe book with tricky ways to get your kid to eat healthy things, and every “kid-friendly” food was something my son didn’t think was very friendly at all. However, the idea of being sneaky and deceitful did appeal to me. Sound terrible? Yeah, how are Santa and the Tooth Fairy doing? Check your pants, parents, ’cause they may be on fire. It is our right, nay, our duty to fib to our kids from time to time. Ask the grandparents. They call it “tradition.”

Wookiee Cookies

I’ve been known to pull a fast one with something I call “ninja food.” Everything’s better with a cool name. It’s called ninja food because you won’t even know it’s there and then — BAM! — you just ingested some vitamin A! One of the four meals my son finds edible is the good old blue box. I puree some ninja carrots. It only works if the color is consistent. I’m only in real trouble if he ever tastes the real thing, loaded with much more delicious things, such as milk and butter. Until that day I will happily watch him unknowingly wolf down half a dozen baby carrots while rubbing my hands together and twisting my invisible mustache like the evil genius I am. However, just like the ideas listed above, ninja food won’t work for everyone.  It is merely a few steps above veggies in meatloaf.

I often find myself trying to find out what exactly is so offensive about a particular food. My son gives me clues such as, “It tastes too high-pitched.” Another one, “It is too much like a volcano.” I eventually figured out that “high pitched” means tart. I thought volcano meant hot, but it turns out that it means the food tastes like vinegar. (We would make baking soda and vinegar volcanoes in the backyard. Those he would taste.)

Well, that is something…

So, if all of that well-meaning advice is no good, what could I possibly have that is any better? Well, I want to tell you it gets better with time. People tell me that, but I don’t honestly know. What I do know is this: It does us no good at all to get sucked in by guilt. Stop looking at those perfect bento boxes filled with low-fat, high-protein, zero-GMO, gluten-free goodness on Pinterest and feeling bad that your kid just ate a can of Pringles along with exactly seven raisins placed neatly in a row. Sometimes it takes a lot to make that raisin thing happen, I know.

It is between you and your doctor to handle the health of your child. The judge of that should not be the little miss yoga pants and coconut water, side-eyeing your grocery cart. The long road of parenthood is lined with billboards, all telling you that you’re doing it wrong. Trust yourself. Know when to push, and know when to pull back.

One more thing. I know your secret. I know you fantasize about taking your kid to a casual dining restaurant and watching them gobble up food that was not painstakingly prepared by your loving, yet weary hands. Do yourself a favor and don’t hate those who make it look so easy. Comparison will kill your joy. What joy, you ask? The joy of knowing their bill will be much higher than yours since you played sherpa and smuggled in a full can of Pringles and seven raisins.

Follow this journey on RaisingJedi and the RaisingJedi Facebook page.

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I will be the first to admit there was a time in my life when the thought of my child riding the “short bus” felt like a devastating blow. It wasn’t so much the stigma attached to it as it was the far-reaching implications of such a need and the realization that things would be so different for our family. When we realized we were going down a special education path, I envied my friends who would worry about things like PTA meetings and bake sales. Following our son’s autism diagnosis and prognosis, I worried endlessly about his future. I worried every day about how tomorrow would unfold. The weight of so many unknowns was palpable.

As our son’s aggression, anxiety and sensory issues worsened and interfered hourly with his quality of life, my worries early on about giving up “normal” seemed petty and ignorant. As I watched him so often crippled by his fear and pained by his senses, the only thing that mattered was helping him through every anxious moment and holding on to the happy moments that were so far and few between.

During the harder days when he was without services, without mental health care and without proper education, I didn’t have enough energy to think about tomorrow or 10 years from now. I was spent just trying to keep everyone in our house safe from one minute to the next, including our son who would self-injure as well as aggress towards his siblings and me.

With his anxiety taking over, the hope of him attending a regular school in a special ed classroom started slipping away. I was no longer obsessed with him mainstreaming or “fixing” his delays; that was the least of our problems. When he shook, screamed and got sick when we all tried to go on a bus for a special outing, I knew he probably would never ride the bus even if he could attend public school. During the weeks he couldn’t even leave the house without incident or if sensory overload affected him for days, I would have fully embraced my son going willingly on a bus (whatever size) to a school that could accommodate him.

mandy.1-001

So today when he rode the “short bus” for the first time on a class field trip, I had tears in my eyes and hope in my heart. He looked back at me about a 100 times to make sure I was sitting in the seat behind him, but he smiled and got a thrill when the bus accelerated. Guiding him onto the bus and asking him to sit next to him was a little boy who has taken to him since the start of the year. As the teacher explained all that was to come, my son started rocking and his friend grabbed his hand. I watched them walk together in the hallway and heard this sweet boy tell him the bus wouldn’t be so scary. As we pulled away from the school, he told my son he could cover his ears when we got to our destination if it was too loud.

mandy.2-001

I couldn’t ask for a better friend for him. A friend who is so accepting and aware of the issues my son faces. A friend who has Treacher-Collins syndrome and partial deafness and has overcome so much already in his own young life. The other children talked to my son, too. The boy who sat across the aisle from them called for my boy by name to look out his window at the Christmas lights we were passing. There was a time when I was so leery of special ed classes and the “short bus,” but now I see a safe space where my son is not judged. He is not only accepted; he is liked. He has friends.    

One of his other friends could not go today due to a seizure and hospital stay. So, yes, you come to a point where you are not only OK with your child riding the “short bus,” you are ecstatic that he can and did. Right now seeing him happy and healthy and growing and learning is everything I could ask for, and anything else is just noise. We have hard days. But today was a good day. Today he rode the “short bus,” and it was perfect.

Follow this journey on From the Bowels of Motherhood.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Leslie Carpenter’s son Asher attends kindergarten at Glenwood Heights Primary School in Vancouver, Washington, and one day she noticed something different when he came home.

“I looked down at his shoes and thought, ‘What are those? Where are his laces?’” Carpenter told local television news station KGW. “[I] realized they are special laces.”

Asher is currently being tested for autism, so he doesn’t yet qualify for services in his school. In a post on Facebook his mom said he’s been struggling to tie his shoes. “He has times where he cannot control himself and has ticks and unties his laces,” Carpenter wrote. “He cannot re-tie them… I felt at a loss, not sure what to do, and felt heart broken every time I would see him get off the bus with his laces dangling.”

Apparently someone at school noticed Asher’s difficulty went out of their way to find a solution: Hickies, a special kind of no-tie laces that convert sneakers to slip ons. “It blew me away,” Carpenter told KGW upon seeing her son come home with the laces. “I started crying right then and there. I just broke down.”

A note and instructions were left in Asher’s backpack on how to use the laces, but Carpenter still had no idea who gave them to her son. After posting a photo of the modified shoes on Facebook with a heartfelt message thanking the generous stranger, Carpenter learned it was an occupational therapist, Carolyn Torricelli, who gave Asher the helpful accessory.

“Now I realize it’s not about making him get used to regular laces,” Carpenter wrote on Facebook. “It’s about meeting him where he is, and if that means special laces… then so be it. His smile, and to see him confident about his shoes means everything. Thank you Glenwood Heights Primary school for your amazing staff and those around our children. You’ve sincerely touched my heart and your kindness to my son and his special needs when you didn’t have to, and this day in age it is very easy to just treat a child as ‘another head’ in a classroom.”

Asher came home without his laces. He had these replacing them, with a note and instructions in his backpack about these special laces. I teared up. I couldn’t believe that someone went out of their way to help him and even found these special laces I had no clue about. I just want to thank whomever that came into Miss Lefevber’s kindergarten class and did this for my Son. He’s so proud of his new laces and has not touched his shoes out of habit once. Now I realize it’s not about making him get used to regular laces. It’s about meeting him where he is, and if that means special laces… then so be it. His smile, and to see him confident about his shoes means everything. Thank you Glenwood Heights Primary school for your amazing staff and those around our children. You’ve sincerely touched my heart and your kindness to my Son and his special needs when you didn’t have to, and this day in age it is very easy to just treat a child as “another head” in a classroom.

My 5 year old son came home from school with his shoe laces gone from Glenwood Heights Primary School in Brush Prairie,…

Posted by Leslie May on Friday, December 4, 2015

Read Carpenter’s Facebook post in its entirety below:

My 5 year old son came home from school with his shoe laces gone from Glenwood Heights Primary School in Brush Prairie, Washington/ Battle Ground School District.

Let me elaborate:

My son is autistic. Every day he struggles with his shoes. While this may not be a big thing to some, it’s everything to him. He has times where he cannot control himself and has ticks and unties his laces. He cannot re-tie them. He does this for multiple reasons but it’s become a daily occurrance. I’ve struggled within myself to take away his laced up shoes but didn’t know if it would just encourage the behavior. Every single day, same thing. ..he’d walk off he bus with those shoes untied. I felt at a loss..not sure what to do, and felt heart broken every time I would see him get off the bus with his laces dangling. He even felt bad about it and would hang his head in shame knowing his shoes were to be tied. and as a Mother I felt helpless..

Until 2 days ago.

Asher came home without his laces. He had these replacing them, with a note and instructions in his backpack about these special laces. I teared up. I couldn’t believe that someone went out of their way to help him and even found these special laces I had no clue about. I just want to thank whomever that came into Miss Lefevber’s kindergarten class and did this for my Son. He’s so proud of his new laces and has not touched his shoes out of habit once. Now I realize it’s not about making him get used to regular laces. It’s about meeting him where he is, and if that means special laces… then so be it. His smile, and to see him confident about his shoes means everything. Thank you Glenwood Heights Primary school for your amazing staff and those around our children. You’ve sincerely touched my heart and your kindness to my Son and his special needs when you didn’t have to, and this day in age it is very easy to just treat a child as “another head” in a classroom.

-Ashers Mom


There are no two identical autistic individuals, even among identical twins (I can vouch for this personally). But there are similarities between parenting experiences. Here are 10 more autism “rules” with visual representations from some of my favorite TV shows and movies. Perhaps you can relate to some of these (see the first 10 “rules” here):

11. Autism parents may do anything to avoid a meltdown.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and when I see my kids struggling to keep it together, I’ll try and redirect them by making them laugh or diverting their attention to something else. It’s not always successful, but I’ve had more success than trying to “talk” them out of it.

On a side note, if I ever need a laugh, I just watch “Supernatural” gag reels!

Source: CW/ "Supernatural"
Source: CW/ “Supernatural”

12. You can’t relax because you never know when the school will call.

I’m fortunate that my children go to a private school for their learning differences. I occasionally get a call, but I know it’s nothing compared to what I would get if my kids were elsewhere.

Source: NBC/ "Grimm"
Source: NBC/ “Grimm”

13. If someone messes with one autism parent — they mess with many autism parents.

Most of the autism community online and in real life are pretty awesome. “The Walking Dead” is awesome, too.

Source: AMC/ "The Walking Dead"
Source: AMC/ “The Walking Dead”

14. If you do go out without your kids, you can’t relax and enjoy it.

It’s hard for me to just let go and relax. I guess that’s why there’s wine.

Source: ABC/ "Once Upon a Time"
Source: ABC/ “Once Upon a Time”

15. For every hundred foods you offer your child, they may actually eat one.

Food aversions are alive and well in my house. I never stop offering, but I also don’t let myself run out of preferred food items.

Sadly, my kids don’t appreciate “Gilligan’s Island” like I did when I was their age.

Source: "Gilligan's Island"
Source: “Gilligan’s Island”

16. Spontaneous hugs may not be tolerated.

When my twins were young, we heard the “they can’t be autistic, they’re too social” bit because they loved to sit on laps and be hugged. Yes, they were sensory seekers. Nowadays, they claim they’re too old to be hugged and are no longer cute. They’re almost 12 so I get that. I don’t want to get it, but I get it. They’re still cute, though.

I love this screenshot of Clara and the Twelfth Doctor. It captures the sentiment nicely.

Source: BBC/ "Doctor Who"
Source: BBC/ “Doctor Who”

17. You recognize that your child’s stimming is an important coping mechanism.

Stimming is a way of life in my house. It’s why I find toys in the pantry (stim item exchanged for food), socks scattered throughout the house (twirling and looking at with peripheral vision) and Legos on the floor (to provide sensory input through the feet).

Source: NBC/ "Miami Vice"

Source: NBC/ “Miami Vice”

18. Hearing someone say your child “doesn’t look autistic,” may cause your eyes to bug out.

It’s been a year since this comment has been made to me – a record!

Source: Paramount/ "Clueless"
Source: Paramount/ “Clueless”

19. If your child wants to bring his own comfort items on a trip, you will probably be bringing his comfort items with you on your trip.

With four kids anytime we go on a road trip, it’s a major production. Even 10-minute trips in the car lends itself to major negotiations over how many plushes they can bring.

Source: Sony/ "22 Jump Street"
Source: Sony/ “22 Jump Street”

20. When offering your child a new food, stealth observation may be preferable to direct observation.

I have to look like I’m busy when I’m trying to introduce a new food to my pickiest eater. If I am openly watching, he will reject it on the basis of smell alone.

I may or may not have hidden on some occasions like Sam and Dean Winchester.

Source: CW/ "Supernatural"
Source: CW/ “Supernatural”

Follow this journey on Autism Odysseys

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