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  • Writer's pictureZoë Benham

I have never tried a banana…

Updated: May 9

… Or an avocado, ketchup, tuna, and actually, the list of food I have tried is shorter than the ones that gross me out.

I have always been a fussy eater, only tried baked Camembert a few years ago in my mid-thirties, I like my meat, burnt, and can only eat certain foods from certain places. As an adult, I often go out for meals and don’t eat at all. It’s the whole what to order, I won’t like it anyway, I’d prefer to eat it at home, it’s not what I thought it would be, there’s nothing I like on the menu, eating and talking at the same time is a complication I’m not in the mood for, what if I choke that will be so embarrassing and EVERYONE is watching me eat!

eating food at table under a sheet

Textures, tastes, smells, and the way it looks! Some pizza is too tomatoey and stone baked way too dry. Butter in sandwiches please don’t, the squelch of a grape, and the weird glisten in burgers. I’m a posh sausage avoider and have an onion-free household because everything about those evil balls gives me the ick. The smell of them!! Most food freaks me out and still does - ugh prawns, giving me the side eye!

Living in a neurodiverse family and raising small humans with particular likes and dislikes it all kind of makes sense now. I was Autistic and so are my children, we have the same issues with smells, textures, and food aversions. Not only did they struggle with simple the idea of certain foods, the fear of the unknown, the feeling, taste, and look, but there was also the social anxiety of eating in formal settings such as restaurants or around unfamiliar people and the sensory overload of eating is a busy, noisy, brightly lit lunch hall.

The layers and complications around food run deep, I often have flashbacks to when I was a child when trying to feed my own, the horror of mealtimes still haunts me and still now prefer to eat alone or around trusted friends. Dr. Sarka who has diagnosed all three of my children, told me to use my own experiences to help them overcome neurodiverse obstacles they face.

I wanted to strip back the anxiety and stress of mealtimes, which meant forgetting about table manners and social norms around eating.

This means we don’t always sit at the table, a packet of chocolate fingers float in the bath, teddies are always invited and heck yea, let’s get the JCB’s digging through the baked beans. It means that we have dinner for breakfast or McDonalds three times in one week, it means that we break the rules, we play with our food, eat standing up, and dance around.

I remember as a child having immense pressure on me to eat, tearful meals and being scolded by dinner ladies for trying to secretly dispose of buttery roast chicken sandwiches.

To help my children eat we created Activity Mealtimes, where the main focus is on having fun, if they ate great but if they didn’t, it still built their confidence around food and was a fun sensory activity. Blending digestive biscuits into edible sand and Oreos for monster truck mud, Jenga breadsticks and skip load of roast potatoes!

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