I’m not generally a Throwback Thursday kind of girl (combing through and possibly even scanning ancient photos that nobody except my mom really cares about anyway = too much work). That said, in honor of Passover, which we’re currently smack in the middle of (two Seders down, six days of cracker sandwiches to go), I am re-posting something I wrote for Kveller around this time last year. It turns out copying and pasting is a lot less work than generating original content.
The piece is about how whenever this holiday rolls around I can never seem to remember how I’ve prepared for it in the past. This is bad news when it comes to the shopping and cooking part, and even worse when it comes to prepping my routine-loving son for a week of no school, different food, and a house full of guests. Then I went on to list how I’d so far been doing a spectacular job of getting Benjamin into matzah mode, and that I’d surely remember it all next time around.
Full disclosure: I did not follow one—literally, not even one—piece of my own advice this Passover. Not because I was too frazzled and lazy to, say, create a social story or wean Benjamin off cereal days before he would actually be forbidden to eat it. Well, not entirely too frazzled and lazy, anyway. See, Benjamin has been incredibly flexible and calm lately, plus he understands so much more right off the bat. As soon as I say something he seems to immediately process it and know what I’m talking about. So why would he need all the hype and visuals? Obviously he fully got that our house was being depleted of regular food and filled with in laws.
Now I see how ridiculous that thought process was. If I need to constantly review my lists and schedules and menus and talk it all over with anyone who will listen in order to reassure myself it’s all going to be fine, why wouldn’t Benjamin need his very own equivalent of that?
So we were off to a rocky start, behaviorally and anxiety level speaking, but things are falling into place. Therapists coming to the rescue with stuff like bowling excursions really help, too.
And next year, when I’m remembering the story of Jews being freed from slavery and all that, I’ll remember to print out a social story, too.
Now, the TBT portion of this post, care of Kveller:
How I Prepare My Autistic Son for Passover
By Jana Banin at 9:54 am
No grilled cheese for eight days?
Every year around this time I come down with an acute form of memory loss. I call it Passover Brain. With just two weeks to go before the first Seder, the panic sets in and suddenly it’s as if I’m observing the holiday for the very first time.
Where did I store the seder plate? How do I get those crumbs out from way underneath the oven? Does anyone make haroset safe for my nut-allergic kids? And why–why–is the only thing in my “Pesach” folder a 3-year-old shopping list?
The biggest missing piece, though, has nothing to do with what I need to do to get ready. Instead, the thing I most wish to find in that skinny file is a guide on how to prepare my son Benjamin for this crazy holiday.
Because of his autism, Benjamin, 9, has an incredibly difficult time with change. This is a kid who breaks down when I take a different route to school or heat up his lunch in the toaster instead of the microwave. Throw in the fact that his life basically revolves around food–”his” food–and Passover (which we observe strictly) becomes pretty daunting. No soy bacon in the morning. No grilled cheese Wednesday night. No restaurant Pizza Sunday night. It’s going to be a long eight days.
Since I can’t remember exactly how I’ve geared up in the past, this year I’m figuring it out as I go along. Here’s what I have so far.
1. Write a social story, i.e., a book explaining exactly what the holiday is going to look like–and more importantly, what the pantry is going to look like.
2. Involve Benjamin in the shopping. The social story helped introduce the idea that Passover is coming, but I saw it all click for him when we rolled through the special section in the grocery store. He helped load up the cart and then, when we left without matzah (I’d planned on getting it somewhere else), he spun the cart around and grabbed a 10-box case.
3. Find substitutes for his favorite things. Okay, so there’s no way around the cereal dilemma–Crispy Os will never, ever pass for Cheerios. But beef fry in place of the soy stuff he loves just might do the trick.
4. Start weaning him off his favorite things immediately. I’ll admit it: One of the reasons Benjamin is so rigid is because I let him be. I pack him the same exact snack every day because I don’t want to deal with a tantrum when he doesn’t get the yogurt, apple, Oreo, and bag of Pirate’s Booty he’s expecting. But as bad as that tantrum might be, there likely won’t be one the next time. Constantly changing it up is the key to increasing his flexibility. In other words, it’s time to bust out the Tam Tams.
5. Print out this list and stick it in the file. Right now.