Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Zisk, Alyssa Hillary. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Zisk, A. H. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sensory Friendly Diets, Or Why I Eat Weird

There is no one sensory friendly diet that is going to satisfy the sensory needs of every Autistic person. It just can't be done, and people who try to tell you that they have found one are some combination of confused, lying, and selling something, probably the diet book. 
One example of conflicting sensory needs: I was staying with an Autistic friend of mine, and we were eating different things from each other basically the whole time. She is sensory seeking for mint, and sensory defensive for spicyness above a threshold most people probably consider reasonable. I have exactly zero tolerance for mint, as in, I have melted down in the dentists office when the floss turned out to be waxed with a mint scented wax. They couldn't even smell it at all, and I melted down. Or I have opened the wrong bin of cookies and flipped out, running all the way across the room before anyone else realized I had opened a bin, because the smell of the mint chips was that bad. A friend had to put his nose about an inch from the cookie and inhale to smell it. So that's already rather incompatible. Now add major seeking for spiciness. I have snacked on jalapeños, both pickled and not. I still do, on a regular basis. When I make chilli, the chilli powder and cayenne powder are both measured with a measuring cup. I have been told that no one else can eat my chilli, but to me it is perfect. I have also snacked on other kinds of hot peppers. My second time in China, I went out with friends the last night, and I ate all the hot peppers out of one of the dishes. I think my record was thirteen of them in my mouth at once, chew, swallow. No one else was even able to eat one. When I say I a, sensory seeking for spicy, I mean it.
Or different people will have different texture needs. Or some people do have celiac or milk allergies or other kinds of intolerance that they need to work around in addition to satisfying the sensory needs. There is no way to do it with just one diet to fit all of us. That might be why when a bunch of Autistics get together, you see a bunch of different kinds of food. We are all trying to satisfy our different sensory needs. 
For me, I have my complete intolerance for all things mint, my seeking for most things spicy, seeking for something about olives, and then the rest is mostly textural. Pasta has a great texture. Refried beans have a kind of bad texture. Scrambled eggs are horrible. Hard boiled are the only eggs I can choke down, and even then it's bad. Yogurt is inedible. On bad sensory days, pudding joins it there. Carbonated anything is impossible, even when it's "flat." 
My sensory issues are mostly not a big deal as far as finding food goes, though I think that has more to do with always having been allowed choices in what I eat than in the number of things I can eat. There are plenty of healthy things I can have, and I always got to focus on those rather than needing to choke down the ones I can't eat. (Well, except when I was on antibiotics for whatever reason and I was supposed to eat live culture yogurt. Pain. Pain and misfortune. Alas and alack. Bad bad bad bad bad. Yogurt is made of fail. It needs to remain in other people's possession, not mine. If that can't be accomplished, then it needs to be banned.) Cream cheese and cottage cheese are just as bad as yogurt, if not worse. I don't even like to touch cream cheese. It's disgusting
My sensory issues might be part of why I eat dinner leftovers for breakfast instead of eating typical breakfast food. A lot of the things I can't eat are considered part of breakfast foods, after all. Yeah, I'm just thinking in print right now. I'm not super articulate all the time. 


  1. I like a lot of the foods that bother you, and dislike a lot of things you mentioned. I bet I can eat that chilli though.

      Also, this clearly means that we are meant to split our food with each other, me giving you my problem stuff and you doing the same for me.

  2. It is funny. We have different Things, but similar Passion levels. However, Yes Yes Yes to the Hot. I also have a giant issue when things are (according to me) not like they are "supposed to be." So, New and Improved? You lost a customer. I am that regular who will read a menu for fun/to be polite but order the same exact thing. Oh, and do you have Tabasco sauce? Thanks so much. :) Actually, I do not prefer to be that regular because I am married to and the daughter of the two best cooks. *These* are the people who make things like they are Supposed To Be, and never put yucky stuff in. EAT ALL THE CHILLI!

  3. I love this post. I was always considered picky as a kid, before my parents and I realized it was a sensory thing. My school cafeteria is extremely sensory-unfriendly, in multiple ways, so I try not to eat there.

  4. I am neurotypical (for most values of neurotypical).

    I am really grateful to you for writing this post. I would never have guessed that a person could be so intensely affected by a particular, rather common scent. Now I know. You have a physiological reaction to a particular scent; somebody else I might meet may have a similar reaction to that scent, or another. It's just the way it is.

    I am not sure it is just "an autism thing" --folk sans autism may also have similar strong reactions to a stimulus that others find neutral or pleasant.

    I get the texture things. While I like (or even seek) some textures you find repugnant, it is entirely normal to me for folk to have food textures they find repugnant and others that they seek.

    Oh, about yogurt and probiotics: you can get them in a non-yogurt form. Culturelle is one (although it has only one species). There are others that come in gel-cap form with a mix of species. The deal is, the dried capsule thingies are more expensive than yogurt or kefir (which I prefer).

  5. I can only buy one brand of Rice Crackers and one brand of hommus, and I hope they never change their recipe, or my daughter won't eat them any more!! Also- I must always have tomato sauce in the house, because it must be on all dinners or no dinner is eaten! My daughter does not like spicy food, but my son loves it! :-)

  6. I can eat alot of different kinds of foods. But, textures, it's textures for me big time. if there's any weird toughness or fattiness or something hard/crunchy that I wasn't expecting, I will stop eating and throw my whole plate out. I also can't stand too sweet of foods. I absolutely love spicy but I doubt i could handle your chili :) Oh and I prefer smooth/creamy textures. chunky not so good.

  7. Thank you for posting this. My daughter's diet is all about the/sensory experience: Greek yogurt is okay, regular yogurt is not. It can be maddening to feed her, but I'm sure it is maddening for her too. She's 3.

    1. Mine is 3 too thank you for the reminder that he gets frustrated too, even if he cant verbalize it.

  8. I'm a lot better for eating stuff than I was as a kid. I mean, my breakfast is always cereal with milk and coffee, my lunch is usually fruit, cheese and an egg or leftover supper, and my supper is pasta 5 days of the week and either stir-fry or soup the remaining two, but there's variety in that.

    As a kid, uh. I ate PB&J with an apple and an orange for lunch every day from kindergarden through tenth grade. I needed a particular brand of cereal (that I now can't stand, funnily enough - texture went from something I like to something that makes me gag) with a specific type of milk. Supper my parents changed around a lot, but I was very picky and would go hungry before I ate something I didn't like. I skipped supper about one day in three because they were trying to force me to eat more stuff.

    Because I self-accommodate my sensory issues so much, I can get away with a lot more variety in what I eat than I used to as a kid because I'm not spending so much energy trying not to gag at bad textures. I can do pureed yogurt, but not yogurt with fruit chunks (even the thought makes me want to gag). I can't do fatty bits on meat. Too sweet is gross. Carbonated stuff hurts. Vinegar hurts. Tomatoes feel weird, so I can eat them only if they're cut up small enough for me to swallow them whole or if they're pureed. If I bite into one by mistake, though, I'll lose my appetite.

  9. I hate carbonated stuff too, but I love mint and hate spice. Once, when I ate a "mild" version of a spicy dish whose other flavors were that was made spicy by adding jalapeño peppers but not spicy sauce, I needed to chase it down with a lot of bread. I regretted it the next day because I had a gut attack so bad I actually cried out. To anyone who sees this who thinks that accommodating need to have non-spicy meal dishes is "toning down their culture", they can always have a non-spicy meal dish available, and they should keep in mind that attacks like that do happen. If they really like spice, there is no reason why they can't make their dish extra spicy and provide a common meal dish that isn't spicy at gatherings; say, pizza, tuna casserole, mac and cheese. If they don't feel it is too much of an attack on their culture, they can even provide a spice-free portion of one of their dishes as well; sometimes the spice might be what prevents other people from trying it. And I mean a completely spice-free portion alongside a portion of the dish with the spice they like. That way, those who want moderate spice can mix the spicy and non-spicy dishes together and the person can leave the recipe in the spicy version unaltered.
    Also, I now gag at the texture of cold wrapped American cheese, which I used to like as a kid.


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