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This Thanksgiving My Son Still Has Autism, Please Hold the 'But'

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For years I held out hope: maybe this will be the year he will try a bite of stuffing. Maybe this will be the year family members won’t nag him to “try it.” Maybe this will be the year the stares and whispers of why I bring Velveeta Shells and Cheese and let him eat that will be stifled. Maybe this will be the Thanksgiving my son feels comfortable and welcome. Maybe this will be the year, friends and family can hold the “but.”

It’s funny, I gave up on this being the year, years ago, because I accept and understand my son. However, many of us have family members who think maybe this year things will be different, which translates to: he will be different.

If you have one of those family members, feel free to print this out and put it on the table as a sort of place card for guests.

This Thanksgiving won’t be any different than last year because:

1. He still has autism.

2. He has made great strides in many areas and we are proud of him, but, his diet isn’t one of those areas.

3. He still has autism.

4. He may now wear khaki pants instead of fleece pants to the Thanksgiving table, but, he still is not putting wet, soggy stuffing in his mouth. Nope, didn’t happen last year, isn’t going to happen this year.

5. He still has autism.

6. I know his diet isn’t great, he knows his diet isn’t great, but, what his brain knows and what his body feels don’t match, and your pumpkin pie isn’t going to sway that connection.

7. He still has autism.

8. We are proud of all he has accomplished, both academically and musically this past year, and we know you are, too. But, making District Chorus and getting a B in College Prep English won’t make your mashed potatoes any less lumpy to him.

9. He still has autism.

10. Can you believe he went to the Homecoming dance this year and danced with friends and stayed over an hour? Wow, right? Yeah, he has made some gains socially, but, he still isn’t eating “even just a tiny bite” of that turkey.

11. He still has autism.

12. I’m thrilled he filled you in on the upcoming musical he is a part of and I love how grateful you are for getting him to chat with you for a few seconds. But, his sensory system is still so sensitive to different food textures that his taste buds think your cranberry sauce might kill him.

13. He still has autism.

14. I love that you see how hard he is working, how much he has grown and in so many areas. So this year, how about commenting on all of that, praising him on all he has accomplished.

15. Because he still has autism.

Ryan had autism when he was a “picky” toddler and he has autism as a teenager and is still just as “picky” when it comes to eating. He is not trying to be difficult, he is not “spoiled.” He is autistic and his taste buds don’t “feel” food the way yours and mine do.

​Some day, my son may try a bite of turkey. Some day, he may think the pumpkin pie tastes as good as it smells. But that will be on his terms if, and when, he is ready. So, I would love it if this is the Thanksgiving you change so my son doesn’t feel like his progress is diminished by the “buts” while you pass him the rolls because he will absolutely eat one of those, no buts about it.

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Originally published: November 21, 2017
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