Chocolate, Strawberries, and Dandelions
Now that I'm in more of a reflective mood, I've been thinking about how much my tastes have changed since I was a child. I used to be much more sensitive to strong tastes and different textures. I never would have touched hot oatmeal when I was younger—too mushy. I liked chicken soup, but I usually ate plain chicken broth with rice; nowadays, that seems too bland, and I prefer chicken-and-veggie soups with stronger spices.
Chocolate, to my younger self, was much too strong and bitter. I might've nibbled a chocolate chip cookie occasionally, if it had very few chips in it, but I never touched chocolate bars or chocolate cake. Strawberries, on the other hand, were a wonderful taste treat. My mother often kept me occupied in the supermarket, where I was likely to get hyper from the bright lights and crowds, by having me pick out a bag of strawberries (this was back before they came packaged in plastic containers, when you had to fill a bag from a bin of loose berries). Although I still like strawberries, they don't have the same keen tang that they once had, and they don't seem all that much different from any other fruit.
In the comments to one of my recent posts, Dad of Cameron described such changes as "regression to the mean." What that means, simply put, is that when you take a sample that is far from a statistical norm, your next sample probably will be closer to it. Autistic children may look far from average in their younger years, but they gradually move closer to the mean as they develop. Sensory differences often become less noticeable as part of the normal aging process (everyone's senses become somewhat duller with age).
I don't intend to suggest that autistic children will always outgrow sensory issues—that's not necessarily going to happen. But we do leave a lot behind in childhood, and sometimes, I think it's rather sad. I remember lying in the grass on warm spring days, watching bumblebees in the clover and picking the bright yellow starburst beauty of dandelions; they had a crisp, faintly milky smell, and the sap was sticky on my fingers.
I noticed a dandelion growing in my yard a few days ago. Now it's just a weed, a nuisance, an uninvited interloper in a neatly manicured green carpet of an ordinary, boring lawn.
These days, I'm better able to deal with sensory input without being overwhelmed by it—more able to make plans and manage time effectively. And although the strawberries may not taste as sweet, they go well with a chocolate bar.
Sometimes, though, I feel as if I just need to take some time to stop and smell the dandelions.