If you have followed me for a while, you may know that among our two sets of twins is one child with high functioning autism. One of the features of autism can often be an obsessive adherence to routine, and a need for everything to always be the same. A lot of autistic kids can get in the habit of only wanting one meal, over and over again. My boy would easily fall into that habit if I let him, so I work hard not to. I do make an effort to provide him with as much consistency and routine as possible, so he has predictability in his days. But with the lunches I actually do the opposite. One of the big reasons why I try very hard to pack something different each day is because I don't want him to get in a lunch routine. If I packed the same lunch for 2 or 3 days, then that would be all he would need to learn to expect it to always be the same from that point forward. And then, if I packed something different, we would have a meltdown on our hands. He would open his lunchbox and be very upset to not find what he had the two days before. So in order to avoid that lunch time meltdown, and help keep him from getting in that rut, I pack a different lunch every day. It actually is a routine for him in a way - he knows to expect that his lunch will be new every day. And if I do pack something the same, he will absolutely comment to me about it. I hear from a lot of parents of autistic kids with this problem. They want to pack variety, but feel like they can't because their child will have a meltdown. I don't have advice for how to change the routine that they are already in, each autistic child is so different and so what you need to do to shift their routines will be different (with my boy, because he is high functioning and communicates well, we usually have good luck with just lots and lots of discussion before we make a change). But my advice to someone just getting started would be to try to not develop that habit in the first place, instead develop the routine of knowing to expect something different each day.
The Lunch Idea:
School lunches today are what I call deconstructed nachos. Basically, everything you would put on nachos, just not all piled and melted together. This is a super easy lunch to make, and it is usually pretty popular. If you make sure that the chips you are using are gluten free, then this is an easy gluten free lunch to make. (and substitute gluten free cookies too)
What's in the lunch:
- Tortilla chips and shredded cheese
- Black beans
- Whole milk plain yogurt. AKA "sour cream" - call it sour cream and my kids will gladly dip their chips in it, but if I told a couple of them it was yogurt, they wouldn't. So I pack yogurt, call it sour cream, they get extra protein, and everybody is happy.
- Two of them have half an avocado.
- A few little oatmeal cookie bites
Questions and Tips:
- I don't do anything to the avocado. The cut side might get a little brown, but it doesn't affect the taste and I think they will eat it anyway.
- Substituting whole milk plain yogurt for sour cream is a great way to add protein to a meal. I do this often when we have tacos or nachos or a soup that I might normally put a dollop of sour cream on.