Autism and Taste: How has your Palette Changed?

I think it’s fair to say that everybody’s tastes in food can change over the years. If you are autistic or have Aspergers however, you may be incredibly particular about your food and have very firm opinions about what you will and won’t eat. The reason for this is largely to do with the way our minds work when it comes to processing sensory stimuli.

Throughout my childhood my tastes were incredibly rigid. Trying new things was almost out of the question. Only very occasionally could I be convinced by my parents to branch out and sample something different. Even then, it took a lot of effort for them to persuade me.

Fruit, for example, was certainly not on the cards. Neither were most types of vegetables with the exceptions of carrots and broccoli. I never really considered what might be on the horizon when it came to new things. I didn’t consider which foods were healthy and which ones were not, but I think any child can be excused for that.

I remember on one occasion, aged about eight, when my lack of interest in different foods really became apparent to me (maybe for the first time). I was staying in the house of a close friend who I visited regularly at that time. Whilst we were playing video games in his room that night, his mum came in and said that we’d be having fish and chips for dinner. I had started to notice that we always seemed to have chips when I came round to stay, and when I innocently asked why this was his mum replied: “I don’t really know what else you eat.”
I also clearly remember the time when my granddad told me that “You don’t know what you’re missing!” when I repeatedly refused to try strawberries. He was, of course, right.

These days there is very little that I won’t eat, aside from foods that I’m allergic to. Whilst there are still some things that I absolutely will not touch (you’d be hard-pressed to get me near to an olive or an avocado, for instance), I have without doubt become far more adventurous when it comes to food.
I guess I just needed a little more time.

How have your tastes changed over the years? Whether you’re autistic or not, comment below! Let’s get a community going.

Take enough small steps and you will make a giant leap.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Have you ever looked at your goals in terms of leaps and steps? Maybe you should.

Most dreams in life, no matter how big or small, have to be worked for. Luck or whatever you want to call it, along with other factors out of your control, play a part. But hard work reaps its own rewards.

Let’s say that you wanted to become an actor. Well, that’s not going to happen overnight. You have to take small steps toward getting there. Attend acting classes. Study great actors. Make as many connections as possible and keep up to date with everything going on in the industry. With enough small steps, you might take a giant leap and get your first break.

This example can be applied to any number of circumstances. With any leap, there’s usually a risk involved, even if that risk is only a substantial portion of time and money invested.

When planning to put together a blog, I didn’t just leap into it. I have done that before and learned from it. Rather, I spent a number of months preparing for it. I made steps each day towards making it happen, whether that daily activity was preparing a post (ie committing an idea to paper), doing research into setting up a blog or all manner of other things. Ideas need momentum if they are ever to become something more than just a thought.

Dropping the A-Bomb: My personal experiences. Should you do it, and when?

As somebody on the autistic spectrum, knowing when to broach the subject of your diagnosis can be a daunting one. Sometimes it may feel as if it is better to keep quiet about it. In other cases, disclosing your autism or Aspergers can be the right decision.

As a part of me, autism unconsciously affects everything that I do.  Of course, it affects me far more strongly in some ways than in others. On the surface it may appear to be invisible to the casual observer, seeing as I look, walk and talk much like any other ‘neurotypical’ human being. In certain social situations, for example, when I am making small talk (which I find hard) or talking to somebody about a subject I am deeply passionate about (which I find all too easy), traits of my Aspergers often show themselves through the way that I communicate. Equally, when I am attempting numerous practical tasks from supposedly simple everyday procedures like tying a tie to more unusual tasks such as putting up a tent, the problems I face are often all too apparent (and in many cases perplexing) to other non-autistic people.

So would I say that divulging your condition as an autistic person is a good idea? The answer is that it completely depends on who you are planning to tell.

All of the schools I attended were made aware that I was on the spectrum and, consequently, support was put in place for me as and when it was appropriate. Whilst I am relatively low-functioning in comparison with other Autists and Aspies, everybody on the spectrum is different when it comes to their needs. The school system was certainly daunting for me at times, though of course the same can likely be said for neurotypical students.

For the most part, I went through school without a great deal of additional help. What help I did have wasn’t picked up by other students as a sign that I was particularly ‘different’, because numerous non-autistics had additional help also, Dyslexic students being one example.

So, would I recommend (from my experience) letting your school and your teachers know about your diagnosis? Yes.

Would I recommend telling other students, with the exception of your close friends?

Absolutely not.

This is where the nature of autism and how it affects the individual comes into play on a big level. Whereas a person with Dyslexia is not impaired socially, a person with autism or Aspergers is fundamentally different in their approach to social situations and their understanding of social cues. In primary school, this, for me at least, did not pose much of a problem. It was when I went to secondary school that the problems started.

At this stage neurotypicals often begin to exhibit symptoms of what I call The Sheep Mentality. That is to say that it suddenly becomes very important for them to fit in socially and follow the trends of the people they wish to befriend. Autistic people rarely care for popular trends and their interests are often very unconventional, nor do they pretend to care about conforming. This makes them, in the eyes of many neurotypical groups, “uncool”. Unfortunately bullying at school is often just a fact that many on the spectrum have had to face at some stage to a greater or lesser degree (the former was certainly true in my case).

The important thing here is that the victim is being bullied because they have been identified as different by those carrying out the bullying. Bullies bully because there is a difference, and do not necessarily care about why a difference exists. While disclosure could improve matters, it could also make things a good deal worse.

Following school, the next logical place to examine is the workplace.

Based on my own personal experiences, I would absolutely encourage everyone on the spectrum to be honest about their condition and how it affects their way of working. Whilst technically employers are forbidden from using this disclosure of information against you, there is no doubt that it may be a disadvantage in certain situations.  In all likelihood, however, being open about your diagnosis is very unlikely to be the sole reason why you were not chosen for the job. Often it simply comes down to their being another person who was better qualified. Employers in many cases will, in fact, admire your honesty, and some of the more knowledgeable ones may even recognize the potential advantages that your condition brings. Certainly, this is true from my experience of attending interviews where I have disclosed my Aspergers.

Why, then, would I encourage disclosure? There are a number of potential advantages. An employer who is aware of your specific needs is in a far better position to put in place any relevant steps and support systems that can be provided. It’s in the best interests of any credible employer to help to make your role in the work environment as stress-free as possible, after all. I would, therefore, recommend being open about your diagnosis when attending an interview. Of course, this assumes that an appropriate opportunity arises for you to mention it. When is “appropriate”? That depends on the questions you’re asked and your own discretion. I personally have no regrets about disclosing my Aspergers in interviews, as in several of those cases I have been the successful candidate for the job in question.

It might also be prudent to make sure that anybody else in a position of authority over you is aware of your diagnosis, though this is not always essential and again depends upon your own discretion. When it comes to letting your other colleagues know, consider the kind of relationship you have with them. If you have a good relationship, then it’s unlikely to be a problem.

Whether or not your family is aware may depend on when you were diagnosed. I was very young (around the age of 4 or 5) when I received my diagnosis. My parents were very honest with me from an early age and talked to me about what Aspergers is and what it means. At the time, I didn’t necessarily have a full understanding of its effects on me, something which I began to understand with age.

Aspergers has certainly caused challenges for me and my family throughout our lives, but there have also been upsides that have stemmed directly from my condition. Many of my greatest achievements in life have been helped rather than hindered by Aspergers. The reason for this comes down to the intensity of my special interests which fuels a desire to succeed in doing the things I love.

Of course, if you found out about your condition later in life, things may be very different for you when it comes to telling your family. I would reason, however, that a loving family should not have any issues accepting you for something that ultimately is beyond your control.

Some people might argue that there are many discriminatory practices in certain work environments that make revealing a condition like autism unwise. I’d counter that by saying that nothing will be solved by keeping quiet about it. If we are to change how the world views us, we need to be honest about things. After twenty-two years, I decided that I couldn’t bear hiding the truth any longer and I embraced my Aspergers for all its blessings and faults. I was tired of being dishonest.

Are you on the spectrum and do your family know about it? What has your experience been when it comes to telling others about your diagnosis? Comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Who am I and why am I here?

Hello everybody and welcome to my blog!

A little bit about me: I am 23 and have Aspergers. I currently work in a bookshop in Hay-On-Wye, Wales. My background is in acting and theatre. I live in the beautiful countryside of Gloucestershire, England.

I will be talking a lot about life, in particular, life with Aspergers and my experiences. I hope to create a community here amongst readers as my following grows over the next few months and years. I would really like to hear your thoughts, so please comment and share your own experiences so that we can get the aforementioned community going.

Peace and love,

Joe