J stopped eating quesadillas for breakfast two weeks ago, and that’s sort of a problem, because I thought we had something going for us again.
For as long as I can remember, J has had issues with breakfast. Normally, J isn’t a fussy eater–which is sort of atypical for autism. Many times kids with autism have very narrow food preferences which often relates to sensory issues (they can’t stand the smell or texture of the food so therefore they won’t eat it, or sometimes the flavour is too spicy or too sweet or too intense for them to handle). But J, for the most part, really doesn’t have a problem with food. In fact, he really, really, loves food and eats almost everything (except for French Fries–but that is another story for another day which has more to do with anxiety and phobias than it does to actual sensory issues).
But for some reason, J has had a problem with breakfast ever since he was a preschooler. For years, J would only eat oatmeal (lots of brown sugar, only a little tiny bit of milk) and nothing else. Sometimes I could persuade him to eat some dry cereal, but that was a rare occasion. Oatmeal for breakfast was the only real option.
Halfway through elementary school, something changed and he wouldn’t eat oatmeal anymore. He refused to eat breakfast at all. And that was a problem, because J needs food to take his medication and a full stomach to function in school. So for the past few years Steve and I have played this game of persuasion with J to eat something sustainable for breakfast. We’ve been through cycles of breakfast bars, nutrition bars, nutrition drinks (like Ensure), muffins (a whole rotation through Costco, pre-packaged Pillsbury, and store bought Hornbachers) and more to help J get something in his stomach before school. We rode the bean burrito breakfast wave for a few months this summer but that quickly fizzled before September and Steve and I were lucky enough to stumble across the quesadilla option. And now that’s fizzled too.
We got through the last two weeks of school on pancakes, waffles, or crepes because Steve and I haven’t thought of the the new plan yet. All foods that I really don’t like giving J for breakfast before school because 1) that means I’m actually taking an extra half hour out of the morning pre-school chaos to make a breakfast and 2) all of those options mean lots and lots of sugar (which isn’t the best option before school). On occasion, I’ll do it on the weekends, but those are things I really want to avoid for daily consumption.
All through the crepe/waffle/pancake breakfasts I kept reminding J that once school starts up again in January, we’re back to something else. I kept reminding him that crepe/waffle/pancakes are for special occasions and in the back of my mind I don’t want him to a habit of expectations followed by anxiety by not having them. But it leaves the question still of what’s for breakfast. What can I give J that has some sort of nutritional value that he will eat? Why won’t he eat “normal” breakfast food for breakfast? Why will he be willing to not eat breakfast at all (without tantrums even) than to eat a bowl of cereal or some scrambled eggs? Why is there some borderline anxiety/control issues over the first meal of the day?
One thing I’ve learned about autism is that I’ll never figure out the answers to questions like this. And I’m just going to have to be okay with it. For now, I’m in Canada for the next week visiting my family (and sister who’s flown back for a visit from Saudi Arabia!) and so Steve will be starting the back to school gig by himself with J and W. And Steve will be the one flying solo on the breakfast dance and negotiations. Wish him luck! And if you have any good (somewhat healthy) breakfast ideas to try, let me know. Right now we’re sort of at an impasse. And not eating is not an option.