Today is Tucker’s Baptism Birthday – which resulted in an ‘out to eat’ meal. I normally cook the children whatever they want for their regular and Baptism birthdays – but today I just ran out of time. So he had the opportunity to choose where he wanted to go out to eat. No surprise – he chose the local Mexican restaurant.
We ran out of salsa at the table…so he used hot sauce until our server brought more salsa. It wasn’t just any hot sauce though – it was real hot sauce. Each chip 1/3 covered in hot sauce. Straight from the bottle…straight into his mouth.
What does this have to do with autism? Actually, quite a bit. In the category of being ‘hypo sensitive’ to oral input is an intense love for spicy, sweet, sour, and salty foods. Children on the spectrum often have a preference and craving for foods that have…um…intense flavor? This makes sense when you think about them needing extra stimulation. Anything that is super spicy, sweet, sour, or salty is often first on their menu.
Tucker’s favorite foods? Salsa, chocolate, dill pickles, and chips. Spicy, sweet, sour, and salty (he also eats at least two apples every day – but that has to do with the crunchy factor).
How much salsa is too much?
In our house, it’s an impossible question. The more the better – and on everything. Bologna sandwich? Yes. Ham sandwich? Yes. Spaghetti? Yes. Do I think it’s gross? Of course. Do I stop him? No way. Salsa is generally healthy. With all that lycopene his chances of every developing prostate cancer has to be incredibly low.
Next? Chocolate. The amount of chocolate that makes people gag. Chocolate bismark, with chocolate filling, and chocolate frosting. Chocolate Captain Crunch. Double Brownie Fudge Blizzards made with chocolate ice cream. Gagging yet? I do…in private. I used to try to stop this chocolate craving because I thought it was ‘too much.’ One thing I’ve recognized is that it doesn’t matter what I think. He’s trying to ‘fill’ his senses – and if a Double Brownie Fudge Blizzard brings him pleasure…then so be it. I’m not the one eating it.
Then comes the dill pickles. On anything – and by the handful. Actually, jarful. Pickles on pizza and sandwiches. Pickles wrapped in tortillas and cut into chunks on top of chips (the salty need).
Salsa, chocolate, pickles, and chips – it really doesn’t bother me anymore because I now know about Pica. Pica (pronounced PY-kah) is fairly common in children with autism. Pica is when children (and teens) have an appetite for non-food items. While Tucker used to have a tendency to chew on paper and his clothing – he never actually had cravings for non-edible items instead of food.
Pica is considerably dangerous because children can crave such items as soil, clay, paint chips, chalk, coffee grounds, glue, hair, paper, sand, and even feces. I don’t think I need to go further in describing why this can be very dangerous. Here is a blog post from a fellow mom if you are interested in reading one family’s journey with Pica (http://alterna-mom.blogspot.com/2012/02/pica-and-autism-one-familys-solution.html)
So we love our salsa, chocolate, pickle monster – because it could be much worse. It’s one of those ‘learned lessons of life on the spectrum.’ It could always be worse….
Hyposensitivity to Oral Input
_x_ has a preference and craving for excessively spicy, sweet, sour, or salty foods
Other ‘Oral’ Sensory Posts