Catering to Autism


For breakfast, I eat virtually the same thing every day: a scoop of vegan protein powder with up to a 1/3 cup of steel-cut oats, a half-tablespoon of peanut butter, all rendered porridgey with coffee as a base, then three eggs separately.

For lunch, that’s also the same deal: a smoothie made from a cup of kale, a banana, ice, water, and more scoops of protein powder.

Though dinner and snacks vary, I’m pretty routine about 66% of my meals during the day.

So imagine what happens if any of that is somehow altered.

It seems like it’d be hard to cater to autistic tastes.


Because you’re catering to routines, patterns, norms — and unless it’s the same things we’re eating for those designated meals, then it’s likely going to be a matter of pushing back.

Mrs. H2 is a pretty stellar cook, so her dinner options are never a miss.

But I get worried when there’s something on deck for breakfast or for lunch. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s good, and I already know I’m going to have to try to switch gears mentally to accommodate.

Maybe you’re in this boat, maybe you’re not — where you feel like you’re dealing with an autistically picky eater and it’s grinding your gears.

As one of those people, here’s my bullets of advice:

-It might not be about picky tastes, but picky routines 

-Get creative with the meals open to the most variety

Discover the root of what makes the ritual stick and appeal to that 

For me, I eat pretty compact and healthy so I don’t like feeling “fat” before and during work, and I like something warm most mornings and cool most afternoons. Portions weigh heavily for me, and I don’t like the feeling of eating too much in the morning.

That sounds normal, but it’s the routine and ritualistic devotion to its consistency that can be more autistic than the norm.

Others’ routines and rituals may vary — those are what you’re catering to. 


We Are Not So Easily Dismissed Anymore

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Super quick disclaimer: If you can pause your opinions on climate change to consider an important topic about autism – read on! If you can’t, check out my other posts instead. Thanks.

I’m going to assume you’re up to speed about Greta Thunberg: a 16-year-old girl from Sweden, the world’s most recognizable climate change activist at the moment, and William Hill’s odds-on favorite to win the next Nobel Peace Prize.

Greta has autism.

As someone on a similar spectrum, I can’t fathom how she’s managing this surge of popularity, constant public speaking, and sparring for her cause, which triggers people here in America. It’s incredible.

But it’s reared an irksome thing that we still have to deal with, an attribute that comes up when people can’t just disagree and choose to dismiss with things like this:

“Greta has autism.”

Have you ever felt invalidated based on who you are? 

It is disheartening to advocate for anything with passion, or react strongly, or try to argue something, only for people to try to shut you down with your own autism.

Are you the type of person who hears someone out and thinks “I don’t even have to engage here – she’s autistic, so I don’t even have to try showing her how she’s wrong.”? If you’re here, probably not.

Yet those people are out there. En masse. Prominent, even!

But I’m encouraged. Why?

Because people are closer to “getting it” about autism. When a pundit claimed (and yep, dismissed) Greta’s arguments weren’t really worth tackling due to her being “mental ill,” FOX NEWS apologized for his comments on their network and rescinded any future airtime for him — that’s a good start.

I’m nowhere near close to what Greta’s doing, or what she’s facing, as an autistic young woman — but I can empathize with the struggle of being someone with a special attribute that people misunderstand, one that people use against you to try shutting you down.


When People Discover I’m Autistic


For starters, I’ll lay down two facts right away:

#1: This blog is about autism

#2: Yes, I’m autistic

/takes bow, backs off stage

Most people pick up on #1 right away, but I’ve found that #2 comes to many by surprise!

This weekend, I volunteered for a girls + data event — an absolutely inspirational delight and joy. During a small bit of downtime, I had a great conversation with one of our program managers who was stunned and delighted to discover that my autism narrative and advocacy were personal.

“I had no idea; I would never have guessed.”

And that’s a common reaction!

I wouldn’t blame anyone there for coming to the same conclusion: during the event, I engaged the campers, landed about 75% of my jokes, made just enough eye contact to pass as normal, and did my level best to help bring energy and enthusiasm to the room.

It was as amazing as it was exhausting; I’ve gotten good at masking the exhaustion.

For every burst of meet ‘n’ greet, I needed “sweet retreat” — where I could recharge at my desk in the back for many a moment.

For every conversation I had, I needed to keep a “getaway excuse” handy, so I wouldn’t start getting awkward or run out of things to say and feel embarrassed.

I was invited for lunch with the volunteers, and I was thankful I had some work to do, because the real reason was “I need a little bit of time to muster up some momentum to socialize and be close to people.”

And after the event was said and done, I was dang near catatonic, staring off into the distance and finding little alcoves to not be seen shutting down.

For the ride out and off to dinner, I said: “Please, I can sit in back – you all can catch up – I don’t mind!”

In my mind, I thought: “I just can’t sustain the conversational energy if I’m up front, and I’m going to unspool, and it’s going to be weird, and I don’t like being the awkward silence in the middle of a chat, and I kinda just wanna look at the hills of Santa Cruz and listen to other people talk and power down without being noticed.”

I am glad when people find it a surprise to learn that I’m autistic. It opens up the great door that comes next.

Where I can share that it’s work. That it’s hard work for many. It is for me.

And that others can support that kind of work — being mindful of when we need a break, or when we need something to focus on, or that little bit of reassurance when we’re firing on all cylinders for a greater good (like keeping happy campers happy!), or just a quick, knowing, “you doing ok?”