Some basic useful daily tips.
From an actually adult autistic who was once an autistic son… like yours. For parents of autistic children.
During my childhood I did struggle a lot with things that seems to be nonsense for most of people, and being raised in a very conservative family didn’t help. So here are some of the things I struggled with and turned it around, growing up to find solutions for a better and easier life.
Food: I still can’t stand “purees” kind of food. I don’t know what to do with them once they’re in my mouth. Always found weird the things that are not one thing or another, in this case, it’s not liquid to drink, or solid food to eat. Creams and purees have that texture that freaks me out. My mouth gets full of something that reminds me of bad toothpaste. Unless it’s chocolate mousse… but that is chocolate. Otherwise, I like crunchy food.
This to say that most of our issues on eating are due to their texture. And I’m saying this not only by my experience, but also by reading other articles from autistics or parents from autistics. Another kind of texture that most don’t like is gummy stuff, like mushrooms. But that only depends on how you cook them. If you fry them or make them in the oven, they’re less gummy and they become tastier. I ended up loving mushrooms… but cooked my own way: in the oven with lots of herbs (herbs de provence).
I never digested dairy, red meat and red/green pepper. I’m allergic to garlic and never made sense to me eating any kind of meat. I was forced when child to drink my morning milk, which after years of vomiting I decided to gave up telling my parents how bad I feel and started saying nothing: just throwing it in the toilet. Dairy just makes me feel sleepy and sick for half day, just like bread. However, I like cheese, strong cheese, but I know that there’s a limit, so I only eat a slice or 2 per day, and I often top it with something else, like figs, nuts or raisons.
I do love strong flavors though, good spices like lots of herbs, curry, chili pepper, etc. since I was a child.
About temperature, I don’t like the food too hot, and definitely don’t like cold food. And if the food is cold I’ll take more time to digest. But for desserts – I love cakes – I can’t stand warm ones: they must be cold. So the rule is warm soup and main dish, and cold dessert. The only cake I really don’t like is cheesecake… which seems obvious after what I wrote before.
I never found easy to eat meat due to its taste and texture, but I love fish. Although my diet is mainly vegetables and fruit I do eat home made gluten free cakes. And lots of dark chocolate bars.
Tip for everything: test, never force.
Textures can be a terrible sensitive issue, not only in food but also in other daily things. For example the bath/shower towel: if it’s humid or just too soft I really don’t like and I feel weird touching it. I always put my towel at the sun to have it back rough and perfectly dry. I remember once I went to a hotel and the bed had silk linen… I ended up sleeping between blankets. The softness of the silk makes me unbelievable uncomfortable. I like the textures rough. The best thing is to test, to understand which kind of texture your son feels more comfortable with. This way you can make him feel more comfortable.
Shower vs. bath. For long time I fought with shower and how it can hurt, but since young age I understood the importance of saving water, so bath even though were more pleasant than shower, I ended up finding the correct use of the shower regulating the pressure and temperature. A fixed shower with larger head suits better for me, specially if the pressure is good/strong. I still prefer bath though, but I rarely go for one since I feel uncomfortable spending too much water. Mind over matter. So I shower daily, as fast and efficient as I can.
Chemicals: I have hard time dealing with chemical products. Their smell and texture once again. We are very sensitive to smell, taste, touch, sound, lights, etc, as you know. This means that regular shampoo and toothpaste is awful. All of them.
I found that those cheap yellow soaps of glycerin and honey were great, and that’s what I use since always.
As for toothpaste, forget any already made one, even those without smell or so. My teeth are perfectly healthy since I started making my own toothpaste, and my dentist said it’s perfect. I use 2/3 of baking powder mixed with 1/3 of coconut oil. It feels good and I like to brush my teeth since then: no longer a problem.
Shampoo, I use only salt. If I use my hair shaved I go for table thin salt, if I grow it, I use salt in grain.
For deodorant, I make a paste of 1/3 baking powder and 2/3 of coconut oil. And believe me, I never smell bad.
Clothing: I remember well the day, back when I had 7yo, that I ran away from my parents because they wanted me to wear pajama and I ended up breaking my forehead, leaving me a scar that I still wear with pride. I always hated wearing pajamas, always preferred to sleep naked. So even though they made me wear one, as soon as I got into my bed I would get naked. It seems that this is also normal amongst autistic children and teenagers: we feel more comfortable being naked and barefoot. Boxer shorts can do the same effect as being naked though. Just don’t make us wear tight clothing, or pajamas that end up rolled up our legs.
I’m tutor of 4 autistic teenagers so I deal with them often and have constant talks with their parents. These four though are High Functioning ones, so mainly I deal with them more guiding them intellectually and culturally, but often on their attitude as well. I end up learning a lot with them just by studying their own obsessions to help and follow them, as my own is learning and expressing. From a more experienced autistic point of view.
Go for it, use their obsessions to learn yourself and create a good link with them. This most probably will ease their communication’s skills as well. Show interest in their obsessions, discuss them, learn, and challenge yourself.
Another thing that parents are often worried is about our meltdowns and shutdowns. While shutdowns are easier to deal with (just give us time, silence, and safe space out of noise and light), meltdowns can be harder to deal.
I recently wrote a book called “I, Energy”, and even though I talk there about collective consciousness and old shamanism, I also talk about Buddhist science of mind, meditation, etc and how helpful it can be for us. I spent 3 years in Himalayas, studying in monastery of philosophy and arts. And it helped me a lot. This to say, that a moment of meditation can be an amazing practice for family. Maybe start the day with half an hour just sitting down in silence, sending good thoughts to each other. I practiced this during 2 years that I was teaching in a school with my students who were from special needs. And the result was beyond amazing.
Most of our meltdowns are due to others, to light, sound/noise, crowds, etc, including collective consciousness. For us it can be overwhelming… and we break down. So most important than everything else to deal with us: take a deep breath, relax, smile, and be love.
We are often deeply empathic, and that’s why all this can be overwhelming. So use this in an intelligent way: if you’re relaxed, that’s what we will feel as well. If you bring back home your work anxiety, stress and frustration, we will feel it deeply and once we are not the best building filters and defenses, we might respond to it with in the “wrong” way.
So the answer for everything is: Be love. Share peace. Be wise with the knowledge that is given to you. And you might end up getting a lot from us. Much more than you might even imagine.
Oh, and as for our obsessions… just feed them! Who knows you’re not bringing up an amazing skilled professional out of their own obsession?