Many autistic children have non-standard hearing. In some cases, an autistic child's brain interprets sound, including speech, as gibberish but more frequently autistic children are acutely sensitive to sound at particular frequencies, often including frequencies that non-autistic people don't hear because to them a pattern of sound(s) is coherent whereas an to an autistic child every sound in a pattern - background city noise, for example - is individual and can become a source of pleasant or unpleasant focus.
It's interesting to note that while autistic adults often retain their ability for fine discrimination, they are far less bothered by it. Most autistic adults can still focus on individual sounds in a pattern and this has been useful for focusing on speech at a distance. Often, they can hear remarks people make about them when they think they should be out of earshot and this can be a very mixed blessing. But they can also tune out so that individual sounds are merged and this is apparently what NTs do naturally.
Tim's diet has been very limited, often the case with autistic children because they become used to one particular flavour and texture, or combination of flavours, and see no need to change. To them, eating the same food all the time is not boring but comforting. For over ten years, Lindsay ate one tin of baked beans for lunch and a tin of peas for dinner every day and he was not overweight as he is today.
Vegemite is a food made from yeast and salt that has been a staple for Australian children (and often adults) for generations. The rest of the world finds it revolting. For a while, Tim ate only Vegemite sandwiches for lunch but began to eat a small cake and flavoured cottage cheese as well as chocolate mousse. (Just remember that autism is mostly genetic and that Tim's parents had to be trained to allow him to eat new food. It hasn't happened.) For dinner, Tim will eat peanut butter or Nutella sandwiches. He can make his own if he has to, as you can see, with that solitary absorption typical of autistic children. For breakfast Tim eats 4.5 Vita-Brits, a type of compressed wheat biscuit, with skim milk and a banana, chopped fine. His parents feed him a vitamin mixture through a hypodermic syringe (obviously without the needle attached). Tim will not swallow tablets or capsules but will readily take medicine administered orally through a syringe.
Tim has finished but the ritual is not quite over as he likes to smear Vegemite on his hands and lick it off.
Tim has now finished except for cutting his sandwich into four pieces. In addition to having an expanded range of foods, including McDonald's or Burger King cheeseburgers, he used to drink apple or orange juice instead of the milk that had been a staple all his life.
Tim's parents, below on a vintage train excursion to raise money for autism facilities, spent a great deal of money on a non-aversive model of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). When that did not result in Tim becoming high-functioning, they tried Kumon but that result wasn't satisfactory either. They now understand than Tim will be in care all his life and that his level of intellectual functioning will never develop much beyond that of the average 3yo. It's easy (and facile) to criticse them for ever holding unrealistic expectations but the fact is that it's very hard to accept that your child is always going to be severely disabled. They have, in our opinion, behaved with great courage and dignity.
More about Tim
Back to Main Page