Cooking for an Autistic Kid

This is my first time to cook dinner for our son since we moved to Spokane. It’s baked breaded chicken, using gluten-free bread crumbs that we found at the grocery store earlier today.

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My husband and I both love to cook, and it is ironic that our son will only eat a handful of “food.” Part of his autistic symptoms is this “restrictive” interest in food. Forget about starving him, he went for a week on just milk and water while we were on holiday in the Philippines, because he did not care for what was offered to him. Then he would only eat french fries. For two years he stuck to a dry food diet: eating only breaded chicken, cereal, bread, crackers. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time when our special ed teacher in Nigeria suggested we try the gluten-free/casein-free diet which has helped many autistic kids. Yeah, in Lagos where product labels don’t always contain the ingredients.

So that was not a viable option for us. Once in a while he would surprise us, like eating bananas and only bananas for days or yoghurt or instant noodles. As he got older he was open to trying one or two new things. We got him to eat fish fingers and calamari by telling him it’s chicken. At least one summer we enrolled him in a month-long special ed program, and the therapists got him to eat fruits. So now he will have apples (green only), melon, and pineapple. He never asks for fruits, but I am happy that he’s not rejecting it. On the bright side at least he also does not care for candies (unless they’re strawberry lollipops), chocolate (unless it’s chocolate milk, and one particular brand), cakes, or soda. Nowadays we also make pancakes and pizza (plain cheese). Once in a blue moon he would eat banana bread and jello (strawberry only). Because he loves milk shakes (just vanilla) and fruit juices, we bought a Ninja blender and made him a kiwi-spinach shake. The green color grossed him out. So we tried berries, he did not like the grainy texture from the seeds. Then I tried a banana shake, and he rejected that after one sip.

I choose my battles, and I remain hopeful, always offering him a bite of whatever I eat even if he replies, “yuck, soup is gross.” This is, after all, the same baby who enjoyed chicken curry and dahl in Pakistan, the toddler who stood by the stove when he smelled chicken-peas-carrot soup or mung bean soup because he loves them. And I – his own mother – also grew up eating only dry food and hating cooked vegetables until I was in my late 30s. His father is also not particularly fond of vegetables, and has been known to eat macaroni and cheese every day for six years, pad thai noodles every day for lunch for three years.

Recipe for breaded baked boneless chicken

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