This little boy right here, he's my hero. You see, this picture was taken at an everyday fast-food restaurant where I'm sure hundreds if not thousands of other parents have taken similar photos of their children. Amongst the scrunched-nosed smile and the half-eaten cheeseburger it’s hard to see the magic in this moment.
This is one of the first times we’ve been able to eat at a restaurant like this. I know that probably sounds strange to most of you, but for me and my son this was truly a special occurrence because up until a year ago he couldn’t chew most table foods.
My sweet, firstborn son has autism and along with that diagnosis he's suffered from severe food aversions and was extremely sensory defensive. It was something we noticed very early on when he wouldn’t even eat Gerber puffs at around 6 months, and table foods made him gag. He even started to choke one time on a piece of ravioli that we had cut up into the size of a dime. My husband had to throw his highchair tray across the room to pull him out of it to prep to administer the Heimlich, but thankfully he coughed it up on his own. To say were shaken by that would be an understatement!
Most parents won’t understand this struggle. They won’t understand the many play dates we went on, and while all of the other kids were eating goldfish crackers and cookies, my son was still eating baby food at two years old. They won’t understand the countless times I had to explain the situation, only to get looked upon with blank faces and drawn in eyebrows from other moms who just didn’t understand.
We couldn’t go out to eat for the first four years of his life without bringing his own special pureed food from home. You probably don’t think about how much it’d break your heart not to be able to give your toddler a bite of your pizza because he’d either choke on it or just not eat it at all?
But, after years of intense occupational and speech therapy he slowly began to be less defensive with food. Until one day, he started to chew soft foods. I’ll never forget the first time my husband and I watched him take a bite of pizza at our kitchen table. We looked at each other with tears in our eyes. It would have been an insignificant moment in the lives of most parents, but for us it was four years in the making.
Today, he eats almost anything placed in front of him. His palate has expanded and every time we see him try a new food we look on with complete pride at the hurdles he’s had to conquer.
He’s had to overcome so much in his soon to be five years on this Earth. He continues to learn, grow and motivate those around him. He’s a whiz at math and has the kindest heart of anyone I know. He’s got my face and has inherited my Irish temper as well. He’s also most inspiring person I know.
This moment with my sweet boy at a local fast-food restaurant would look like nothing to those passing by, but for my son and me it was absolutely everything.