The Miracle of the Cheerios

Triumphs with an autistic kid can be sparse a hard-won when they happen. Then, every once in a while, it’s like a switch just clicks over and something miraculous happens. One of Bean’s biggest issues is food. He eats smooth peanut butter and non-bumpy  jam on one of three things: toast, english muffins or Ritz crackers. That’s it. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Every single day. For the last, oh… five years? Yeah, that’s about right.

But lately, he’s been edging outward, tentatively- and if I look at him or notice, he runs back to the peanut butter. But he’s eating vanilla yogurt. And bananas- sometimes. This morning, he saw Abby eating a bowl of Cheerios, and then he stood in the middle of the kitchen for a few minutes watching her with open disgust. He hates messes and never gets anything on his face- except lately. Yesterday he ate a fudgecicle, and he had chocolate around his mouth- I let it ride for hours because it NEVER happens. When he finally glimpsed himself in the bathroom mirror, he freaked- but it’s still progress, because it means his food touched him and he didn’t notice. See? Small victories.

So this morning, as he watched Abby get milk on her chin and spill little o’s on the table, I was shocked when he said “Mom! (it’s always an exclamation from him) I want a bowl of Cheerios!” I look at him sideways, not wanting to cause the peanut-butter retreat. “Okay, Bean. Let’s get a bowl for you.” I pour the o’s in a bowl, not making a big deal AT ALL about WHAT A BIG DEAL THIS IS- because that’s what you have to do. Pretend a child who’s eaten the same thing for 5 years asking for a bowl of Cheerios is normal! “Do you want them dry or with milk?” He opts for milk, but wants to pour it himself. This sometimes happens- he sees a food that looks like a fun process, then once the process is done, he won’t go within 5 feet. I am expecting this with the Cheerios. He pours the milk, and I return to my homework- but not really- I’m watching him covertly over the top of my computer.


Only the mother of another ASD child with food issues will understand that I want to SHOUT this from the rooftops! Now, will he do it again? Or was this a fluke? That’s the million dollar question. Welcome to life with autism.

18 thoughts on “The Miracle of the Cheerios

  1. My kids aren’t dx’d autism, but we all have sensory issues, and food is a big one. I ate the same thing as a kid for breakfast and lunch everyday for years. My food has to be crunchy, not soft–soft makes me gag. Which is why I put chips inside my sandwiches. 🙂

  2. Hooray Hooray Hooray!!!! I don’t have an ASD child, but my youngest has serious food issues. I totally get what you are saying when you talk about not making a big deal about things that are HUGE in your universe. I’m so worried about my youngest when he goes to school in a few weeks and what he’ll take for lunch to eat. And I’m secretly hoping that he succumbs to peer pressure in the food department and wants to try something new. Anything to get him to grow!

  3. SWEET! Congratulations.

    I love PB on Ritz crackers. Super low carb and tasty. Bean and I would get along just fine – we always have it in the house.

    Don’t tell him my kids put honey on their Cheerios. The stickiness might put him back on PB for another 5 years.

    Is it just texture, or will color make him wig out too? Because cinnamon/sugar on Cheerios is very good too.

    Small victories!

  4. I am so excited for you! What an accomplishment. I can only imagine how you must be feeling. Ho0ray for you both!

  5. We don’t have too many food issues here, but my daughter, who has worn a dress every day since the beginning of 1st grade (and she is now entering 6th) has worn shorts this summer. We told her we she couldn’t go cycling with her father unless she wore pants. There were many, many tears and much anger. But then she wore them. At first she would change immediately after coming home. Now she forgets about half the time. I am always tempted to compliment her appearance and then I remember–KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. DON”T DO OR SAY ANYTHING TO SUGGEST YOU NOTICE. So far, so good. It is very exciting. I just wish I could figure out 1) how to get her to wear shorts or capris to school and 2) how I could get the other children not to comment on this surprising development. Impossible. But anyway, all this is to say I definitely know how you feel, and I hope Bean keeps eating the Cheerios. Yea for breakthroughs! Good luck!

  6. well, now that I am crying because I have finally realized that someone else knows how this goes and I am NOT crazy and that my kid too has autism and severe sensory integration disorder and is an exact replica of your Bean. I really never know how to tell my family about these things you know… I can’t find the words or I am scared they will just say to me again “you just have to make him eat what you are serving”. It’s just so hard and I find such peace or maybe comfort in reading your blog. Thank you… as my tears flow again!

  7. I have an 8 yr old son with sensory issues and serious issues with food. He will only eat a handful of items and when he ventures out and tries something new on that very rare occasion, the whole family holds their collective breath and watches out of the corner of their eyes to see if he will really eat it. Right now, it’s small cans of mandarin oranges that he cannot get enough of. And I’m just more than happy that he tried it. For so long it has been peanut butter and jelly or very very rarely grilled cheese and even more rarely than that, bagel with hummus. That’s all he’d eat. End of I totally celebrate this bit of progress with you…I totally get it!

  8. I have an 8-year old who has been diagnosed with a moderate food disorder (although moderate means he eats Nothing…) and this summer I have to tell you that he ate grilled chicken…..I was crying at the dinner table the night it happened….and I told everyone that something was in my eye. I just couldn’t contain myself.

    I totally get it and I think it is fantastic. I sometimes feel very alone with food disorders because everyone tells me that I cater to him too much. “That if he gets hungry enough, he will eat” which is the furthest thing from the truth. He just won’t eat….for days.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I appreciate hearing someone else’s struggles with such an everyday reality.

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