No, It’s an Unhealthy Interest in Fruits & Veggies…

A couple years ago, when the little guy was between 2 and 3 years old, he had this love for vegetables and fruit.  Now, don’t get lulled into the idea that his love of fruits and vegetables was in the “normal” way – like eating them.  Remember who we’re dealing with here.

It all began with books.  Children’s books love to tell stories about fruit and vegetables.  My guess is this helps to teach all about vocabulary, colors and good eating habits. My son loved these books:

Sesame Street fostered this interest for him with its repository of songs and cartoons to promote healthy eating.  My little boy loved an episode of Sesame Street with this song:

So, I imagine (although I have no experience with NT kids) that these books and shows would foster an interest in trying to eat healthy, colorful fruits and vegetables and promote interests in trying new foods.  For “regular” kids.  It took – umm- a different turn in our household.

First, it was pointing at and naming fruits and veggies.  He made it clear he wanted me to point at them and he would provide the names.  As early as 18 months he was identifying apples and bananas.  His favorite was the zhuh-zhee (his own made up name for “orange” – don’t ask me – I have no idea where that came from!!).

For hours we would look at books of fruits and vegetables.  He was fascinated by their shapes and colors as well as their names.  So, we would have “school” and he would name off the fruits, vegetables and their shapes and colors when he was between 2 and 3 years old.  Given this strange devotion, it was only natural that we would transfer the interest to the real thing.

In the grocery store, we would spend – literally – 20-30 minutes looking at fruits and vegetables.  He would have to touch them and pick one out to carry around like a NT kid would a toy.  All the adults thought he was this amazing health nut kid that wanted to eat all this produce.  “What a wonderful healthy child!” they would tell me.  I would just nod and smile.

The truth was that he would have nothing to do with eating any of the vegetables.  He did eat the fruit.  Mostly though, these fruits and vegetables were his friends.  Like a doll, he would carry them around the house. He had a variety of things that he loved.

If I dared to try and do any other grocery shopping first, I would get a meltdown. “Go there!”  he would point with a special inflection in his voice.  I tried many times to tell him we’d get there and do other grocery shopping first but it got to a point where I knew I had to give him some produce first to get the rest of the shopping done and that was just how it was.

First, and foremost there was the cucumber.  We could absolutely not leave the produce aisle without the “perfect” cucumber.  I have no idea how he determined which was was the right one because he would alternate between picking a huge cucumber and a smaller one.  I always had him in the cart.  He would dictate from his cart throne by pointing to the cucumber that he wanted.  If I picked up the wrong one?  I was scolded.  After it escalated into meltdown status, a few times when I tried to give him the wrong one, I simply would let him pick out some produce, so I could finish my shopping.

Sometimes, he’d have to have a zucchini also.  But the zucchini (which was much more versatile for me to actually use in my household) could not be substituted for the cucumber.  It was just an accessory.

Second, on his list was always to have a squash.  He loved acorn, yellow and butternut squash.  He loved the feel and the size and the shape of them.  There was also one that captured his eye there as well and it was my duty to get it for him.

Also making his top five list of vegetables were the colorful bell peppers, white radishes (Daikon) and pumpkins.

I often had to buy and bring home these vegetables which he would carry around the house.  I would have to keep them on the kitchen counter only to throw them out while he was sleeping because they were starting to shrivel and get funky.  When he would notice, there would be a meltdown.  Sometimes, I actually had to get a new one and replace the old one in the kitchen in a sneaky maneuver.

He loved a good orange, apple, pear, lemon, or lime.  It must have been the round shape and bright colors.  We were always afraid he might choke on a grape so we had to restrict him to the larger fruits.  Luckily, he would eat some of these and I could make use of the rest.

So, with this great love of all things vegetable and fruit, during the summer after his third birthday, I planted a garden.  I’ve planted gardens before but never at this house.  We tried to grow jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, cantaloupe, strawberries and watermelon.  We had success with the tomatoes and a few zucchini but not with the rest because we had rabbits.  In the five years I’d lived in the house before the garden, I only rarely saw a rabbit in the neighborhood.  The year I planted the garden, there was a rabbit population explosion!  They stole everything.

But not before I caught this picture of the little guy getting his first two zucchini out of the garden.

Yes, they too became his friends.  After that summer, like most of his other intense focuses, the fruits and veggies settled into the background.  Now and then he will ask for an orange or a stray cucumber but he’s so over it now.

We’ve been talking about growing some fruits and vegetables when grandma comes home.  That will be at her house.  I’m not planting for the wildlife again.  I felt too much like Elmer Fudd.


About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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20 Responses to No, It’s an Unhealthy Interest in Fruits & Veggies…

  1. Wendakai says:

    Whoa… I so know what you mean by the unhealthy attachment to things. I’m just feeling a little lucky right now that most of Bud’s “attachments” were to fuzzy things, which at first glance, to others, appeared quite usual. ;o) Fortunately they do outgrow them. 🙂

    • solodialogue says:

      Hi Wendy! Fuzzy things eh? Long as they were not perishable, like peaches, and more like stuffed animals? I’m with you. Just glad they outgrow them! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Grace says:

    Oh, I’m sorry, but I’m laughing picturing you in an Elmer Fudd hat with the ear flaps, skulking around your yard with a shotgun shooting at peskily wabbits!! 🙂

    Did you ever find rotten oozing produce under the couch? Because that’s totally where it would have ended up in my house.

  3. That is so funny! My son is interested primarily in condiments- ketchup, mustard, barbeque sauce, Ranch, etc. That’s his favorite aisle in the grocery store, and he likes to label them all like your son does with fruit. 🙂

    Elmer Fudd, that makes me laugh.

  4. Heather says:

    There is definitely worse things to be attached to I suppose 😉 I remember one particular day Brian decided he wanted to carry the last of his chicken nuggets in his hand ALL DAY- I kept trying to grab it and hide it but he was stuck on it….

    thankfully I haven’t seen any weird attachments as of late 😉

  5. Lizbeth says:

    And they say kids on the spectrum are only interested in trains and lego’s…haha!!!
    Too sweet!

  6. bbsmum says:

    Elmer Fudd! That’s given me a really good laugh!

  7. jnettlee says:

    Cute. Loved reading this as I am getting ready to set out my own garden again just as soon as the weather cooperates. Already seeing deer hooves in the freshly tilled soil, and the seeds and young plants haven’t even been set yet !

    I always plant extra for the deer and the rabbits, that way I know I’ll get at least SOME of my fresh yummies. 🙂

    • solodialogue says:

      I wonder how much I’d have to plant to outnumber those rabbits – I think I’d just get more rabbits… 😉 You are a tenacious one! I’d go crazy with the deer there already!!

  8. Broot says:

    I loved this story. I can just see the careful deliberation over the choices made. 🙂

  9. eof737 says:

    The Elmer Fudd connection is funny but you know, it’s not a bad attachment if I should add my two cents. 🙂

  10. spectrumdeb says:

    Sterling adopted a family of spaghetti noodles. They did not have names or roles (Mommy, Mama, baby, etc) because they were noodles. We asked if they were worms, and he got furious. They had to be laid out side-by-side next to his plate at meals and returned to their house (thankfully, they lived in the fridge) afterwards. They were NOT food. They were citizens of Planet Spectrum. They could not be swapped out or freshened. It was a bad day when they disintegrated.

    Your supermarket escapades reminded me of something else, just funny on a basic parenting level, if I may. I will tell a quick story about my apparently NT son. He adopted the rainbow trout from the meat section, wrapped in the white tray and plastic. “Trouty” had to ride all through the store, discussing purchases and begging for Pop Tarts. Thankfully, we got to take “Trouty” home, cook him and eat him. We had to do this every shopping trip for about three months. Oy.

    Thanks for your continuing voice, Karen. I love the glimpses into your world.

    • solodialogue says:

      Lol, Deb! You make me glad for a rotting squash when I hear about Trouty!! Thank goodness he let you cook and eat it!! The noodle thing… that sounds like it was about the same as here! My world is your world…

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