Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Chocolate, Strawberries, and Dandelions

I've been feeling gloomy for the past couple of weeks, probably because of the change of seasons. So I've been consoling myself with (mostly healthy) comfort food. Apple-cinnamon instant oatmeal. Chicken soup. Dark chocolate bars with almonds. And strawberries.

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.



  • Sunday is a great day to be reflective and recharge the batteries.

    So you won't want to borrow the weed whacker [sp.] [translation = lawn mower] now?

    Best wishes

    By Blogger Maddy, at 6:55 PM  

  • Not that all kids have the same taste issues, but apparently lots of kids can't cope with strong flavors.

    What I remember, food-wise, as a child was that eating toasted french-bread (like garlic-toast) was painful. The crust was like a knife cutting into the roof of my mouth, if I took a regular bite of it. The soft middle part was fine, of course, but I had to deal with the crust carefully.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:55 PM  

  • McEwen: Thanks. If a lawn mower is called a weed whacker in the UK, what do you call the little weed-chopping devices with spinning plastic strings that are called weed whackers in the US?

    Camille: I remember garlic toast with crusts that felt like gravel, too. I always folded the soft part carefully over the crust before biting into it.

    By Blogger abfh, at 8:06 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger John Best, at 8:23 PM  

  • My sensory issues regarding eating have improved - but I still am a very picky eater. I was eating Spaghettios almost exclusively for a while a couple of years ago. I still like the old favorites - chicken noodle soup and plain chicken and rice and lots of bread. I am better though regarding the smell of food - I used to not even be able to be in the same room with things like tuna cassarole - everything about it creeped me out - the sight, smell and even sound of it. And I can let things touch each other on the plate without freaking out anymore :)


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:23 PM  

  • None of your hatefest links are allowed here, John.

    By Blogger abfh, at 12:11 AM  

  • Dandelions are wishes waiting to be made :D Remember doing that when you were a kid? I accidently inhaled the fluff a few times when I was little--I don't recommend it! I wasn't a very coordinated breather lol...

    My issues with food have always been texture more than taste related. I agree about the oatmeal, ew, still don't like it cooked.

    Strangely enough my son has similar food dislikes. He dislikes gelatine desserts, ice cream, custard and that sort of thing, but he loves spicey or crispy foods. Good thing, we eat a lot of them!

    Hey, I'll trade my milk chocolate for your garlic bread crusts, ladies. No trades for the dark chocolate, though, I like that stuff too much.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:26 AM  

  • Regression to the mean I think is more a case of learning how-to-make-do with what is presented to us. Especially since it is presented by the NT's' and that includes food.
    As to food tastes - mine haven't really changed at all (I'm 60). I still despise asparagus and blueberries. I always said I was allergic to blueberries (I'm not) so I didn't have to explain anything.
    But then my soft-spots never involved taste anyway - other sensory issues, yes, but not taste.
    Fluorescent lights still drive me nuts.

    By Blogger Someone, at 1:51 PM  

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