In last week’s blog entry, I wrote about the need for sameness in autism and the problems that can arise when certain comfort items are no longer available. Thanks to the thoughtfulness of an autism dad, The Little Blue Cup Project emerged, allowing parents to connect with others and track down rare items their children need. The online article I cited from Vox [To read this article, please click here.] also described problems that occur when certain foods are taken off the market. Since many people with autism can be picky eaters due to sensory issues and/or have food allergies and sensitivities, being able to obtain specific favorite foods is a priority for many parents whose children may reject substitutions.
Specifically, the article cites the example of a mother who orders food items in bulk quantities for her adult son who will only eat a few items, such as Laughing Cow cheese spread, two flavors of Capri Sun drinks, and Nesquik chocolate drink mix. When her local grocery stores stopped carrying Laughing Cow cheese, she wrote to the company, and they sent her a refrigerated package containing four dozen boxes of her son’s favorite cheese. In addition, she states, “I stockpile everything as if I can’t source them in the shops, and he will not have alternatives.” Although shopping for groceries should not have to require research and detective work, for many parents of children with autism, it does.
Because of sensitivities to cow’s milk, Alex has been on a dairy-free diet for more than twenty years. Recently, I had noticed that the specific type of coconut milk beverage I use to make pudding and smoothies for Alex has become more and more difficult to find in grocery stores. Fortunately, the company’s website lists places where their products may be purchased; however, the specific flavor Alex prefers was no longer available in the shelf stable package we had bought for several years.
With some more online searching, I discovered that our local Target store carries the same brand and flavor of coconut milk beverage in milk cartons in the refrigerated case. What is especially helpful is that Target’s website not only tells in what aisle their products may be found but also how many of that particular item are currently in stock.
Thankfully, Target carries the elusive coconut milk beverage as well as the same brand’s coconut milk vanilla yogurt alternative that Alex eats every day. While other local stores had either stopped carrying this product or were often sold out, probably due to greater demand and limited supply, Target has come through for us once again by providing Alex’s favorite dairy-free yogurt. Even better is that they offer this yogurt at a lower price than what we had been paying at grocery stores.
After solving the issues with coconut milk beverage and yogurt, I thought I could rest a bit from tracking down foods for Alex. However, a couple of weeks ago, our local grocery store that offers a wealth of special diet foods suddenly stopped carrying Rice Dream nondairy frozen dessert, the ice cream equivalent Alex has eaten for more than twenty years. After checking their website and discovering that no local stores carry this specific product, I wrote an email to the local grocery store’s manager requesting that they order this product. Within a day, the manager sent me a very cordial response explaining that their supplier no longer carries the Rice Dream frozen dessert. He even went to the trouble of checking to see if he could get the item from other suppliers but had no luck. Moreover, he assured me that if their supplier began carrying this product again, he would be happy to order it for me. While I certainly appreciated his kind efforts, I knew that I would have to find an alternative to yet another unavailable food item that Alex eats every day.
Once again, I was grateful for the ease of Internet searching, which led me to two alternatives for Rice Dream’s frozen dessert. So Delicious, whose coconut milk beverage and yogurt have been elusive but finally found at Target, make a coconut milk “ice cream” and so does a company called Nada Moo. After scanning their websites, I found that So Delicious non-dairy frozen dessert is available at two of our local stores as well as Target, while the Nada Moo is only found at Target. Again, the ever-helpful Target website allowed me to find the aisle number for these dairy-free treats as well as the number they currently had in stock before I ever arrived at the store.
Of course, my search for dairy-free ice cream would have been in vain if Alex rejected the coconut milk substitutes. Thankfully, he seems to like the flavor and texture of the coconut milk ice cream as much if not more than the rice milk ice cream he’s eaten all these years. Now I can buy his coconut milk beverage, yogurt, and ice cream all at the same place as well as have the opportunity to make a Target run, which I always enjoy!
Thinking that my current quest to find things for Alex was over, I was disappointed to discover last week that the shampoo he has used for many years has also been discontinued. Once again, I turned to my laptop for a search of stores that might have his shampoo and was able to get some good leads. Knowing that he is sensitive to textures and smells, I knew I had to buy up as many bottles of his shampoo as I could find to store for future use. Feeling like a hoarder, I stopped at three different stores and bought a total of nine bottles of his shampoo, which should last us for a while. Hopefully, before we run out, I’ll be able to locate an acceptable substitute or he’ll be less picky about his toiletries of choice.
Among the various challenges autism presents is the need for sameness, which tests parents who are trying to find specific foods and items our children need and prefer. Fortunately, the Internet makes our searches for these favorite things easier as we try to help our children cope in a world that changes faster than they would like. Consequently, we pray for their healing so that they can learn to be more flexible and willing to accept alternatives when the originals are no longer options. In the meantime, we autism parents hope that every time we seek, we shall find what our children need.
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9