This morning Emma asked for “toast with cheese” for breakfast.
“How about toast with almond butter?”
“No toast with almond butter. Cheese. Here.” She thrust a wedge of sheep’s milk cheese at me.
When she was first beginning to speak she would say a phrase, usually not a single word, such as “All done” or something that sounded like, “bye-bye, see you later” and then the next week we would hear a different phrase, but the new words weren’t added to the previous, instead the previous phrase was never heard again. Like her pickiness with food, she seems only able to tolerate a set number of things. Out with the almond butter and in with the melted cheese. I’ll keep pushing her to have the almond butter, but she’s nothing if not determined.
People often remark, when hearing about Emma’s limited food, “Well, she’ll eat if she’s hungry enough.”
While this is true, it isn’t true in the way one would suppose. Emma will say no to something and if that’s all that’s offered, she’ll wander off, seemingly not concerned. The idea that she’s really hungry doesn’t seem to cause her much anxiety. It’s as though Emma doesn’t have the basic survival instincts the rest of us come innately equipped with. I have since read on a number of websites about other children with autism who simply do not eat if the food they are comfortable with isn’t offered. Emma will eat whatever it is once, but then not again.
When Emma was a baby she appeared utterly unconcerned when one of us would leave the room. If we were at the playground she would wander off, never looking back to see where we were. It was as though the thought that she actually depended on us for survival was not programmed in. Even before she could walk, she seemed unable to comprehend that she needed us to take care of her. She behaved as though she were a fully grown, perfectly capable and independent adult. It was like that with all kinds of things. She would dash into the raging surf at the beach, as though she were a seasoned swimmer, before she knew how to swim. There were numerous occasions when Richard or I would glance up and see her disappearing into the ocean, her blonde curls floating on the water’s surface, waves crashing around her and Emma oblivious to any danger, barely able to keep her head up, laughing. It was with this same insouciance that she left our hotel room one night at around 2AM when she was three, only to be found 30 minutes later wandering the halls of an enormous hotel we were staying in for a weekend get-away. All of us were terrified and I still remember that feeling of dread, as though I might throw up, when we still hadn’t found her after the first ten minutes. The hotel was like something out of a Stephen King novel, old and creepy, with cliffs on one side dropping into an ice covered lake. The panic was all encompassing; it was as though my mind and body had separated from one another, a sensation almost every parent of a child with autism has experienced.
Last night I gave Emma a small bowl of my “Thanksgiving Soup”. She whimpered when she saw it, then dutifully tasted it, before putting the spoon down and saying, “It’s all done now.”
When I offered her another spoonful she took it, but as she held the broth in her mouth, she began to gag.
Joe who was standing nearby said, “She can take a huge spoonful of cod liver oil with no problem, but not your soup.”
Yup. That’s our girl.
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: www.Emma’s Hope Book.com