Sunday 6 August 2017

Eating out with Autism

This may look like a pretty mundane photo to some, but to me it represents a huge achievement.

Today we took Sasha to a cafe (in a garden centre!) for lunch.

That sentence on its own is unusual enough; over the last few years we have rarely eaten out anywhere. There was one attempt at a Mothers Day lunch this year, but it was, to be frank, a disaster, and reminded me why we don't tend to frequent public places for eating. (see Mothers Day and Harry Potter studio tour for the story on that one!)

So anyhow, back to today. It's not as simple as telling Sasha we are going out and just leaving the house at the right time. It involves a lot of preparation; talking through plans and making sure she has an idea of what we'll be doing, how long we'll be out for etc. I need to make sure that a device (or two) comes with us, charged and with a spare charger, and some cold water and snacks (her beloved pepperami sausages).

There's never a guarantee that she'll eat any food out - she'll eat sandwiches at home but not if we take them out (I think this is something to do with the foil or plastic they may be wrapped in making them taste slightly different, or that they're just not as fresh once you've been out). So I make sure she's had her sandwiches before we leave the house. I know that sounds crazy when you are going out for lunch - but believe me, hunger is something which can send her off kilter sooner rather than later, so it's not worth the risk of going without.

Waiting for anything is an aspect of life which seems to cause Sasha the most difficulties, so I had some concerns over the fact that we were a large group and ordering/serving food might take some time. Luckily, we were at the cafe before most other people arrived (early lunch always a must do for us) and so Sasha had her choice of seats (she tried a few) and settled down somewhere that she could see her DS screen. OK, so it sadly wasn't at the same table my parents and her cousins were eating at, but I knew how important it is for her to choose what's right for her and not what would suit everyone else.

When we first arrived at the cafe, Sasha decided out of the blue that she would like to try a cooked English breakfast. I tried not to show any surprise, but instead rejoiced in the fact that the cafe not only did cooked breakfast at lunchtime, but also did a child's version of cooked breakfast. I was fairly sure it wouldn't get eaten (Sasha's variety of foods which she eats is pretty limited, she's eaten almost the same things for breakfast, lunch and tea for over 4 years now), but there was no way I would ever say no to her trying new food.

When it turned up, she tried the beans straight away - a little too warm for her which probably didn't help, but at least some went in her mouth. Then she watched me spread butter on one piece of her toast and decided she wanted to spread the other half herself - then changed her mind and decided to eat half the toast dry, followed by the other half I'd already buttered.

Now this is a girl who has got so fussy about her toast at home of late (too much butter, too little butter, too well toasted etc) that she has stopped eating it most days, and has never wanted toast anywhere we've been on holiday before, because it always tastes a little different. Again, I tried to pretend it was no big deal, as she carried on playing on her DS, and she switched to eating the full plate of chips which had come with the meal. Chips are one of Sasha's favourite foods, but generally only if they come from McDonalds or are oven chips cooked at home. So it was actually a big deal that she ate these ones with no complaint.

I'd cut the bacon and sausage up for her to try, and she licked a piece of sausage on the end of my fork. It had been a little tough to cut so I wasn't holding out much hope, but I could see her thinking about it and then stretching for another lick, and then a wider mouth for a whole piece of sausage to go in - she actually enjoyed it! Hallelujah!

One other achievement at the same time - Sasha agreed to try using her headphones so other diners wouldn't have to listen to her Pokemon game. We've tried to persuade her to do this many times before, but she's always complained of the headphones feeling too uncomfortable, so it's never been done. Today, she did it of her own accord 😍

Apologies if you have found all this mega boring and you would call it nothing to write home about, but any small change in Sasha's diet is a small step forward for her and definitely something for us to celebrate. The icing on the cake for me was that I also got to sit and eat a meal out in relative peace, and we didn't need to leave in a hurry before the rest of our party was ready. Whoop!

To find out more about our experiences, please check out our 'About Us' page or the summary of our experience in Our PDA Story Week 35. If you are looking for more online reading about Pathological Demand Avoidance, the posts below may help.

What is PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)?

Ten things you need to know about Pathological Demand Avoidance

Does my child have Pathological Demand Avoidance?

The difference between PDA and ODD

Strategies for PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)

Pathological Demand Avoidance: Strategies for Schools

Challenging Behaviour and PDA

Is Pathological Demand Avoidance real?

Autism with demand avoidance or Pathological Demand Avoidance?

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