In The Politics of Autism, I write:
Autism often involves a range of other co-occurring conditions: intellectual disabilities (e.g., low IQ); delays in gross motor skills (e.g., walking, throwing) and fine motor skills (e.g., writing); attention problems and hyperactivity; anxiety; self-injurious behavior; unusual sensitivity to certain sounds, smells, or feelings; extreme food selectivity; and sleep disorders. For autistic people and their families, the co-occurring conditions may cause as much anguish as the autism itself.
The Trump administration is proposing to save billions in the coming years by giving low-income families a box of government-picked, nonperishable foods every month instead of food stamps.
White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney on Monday hailed the idea as one that kept up with the modern era, calling it a "Blue Apron-type program" — a nod to the high-end meal kit delivery company that had one of the worst stock debuts in 2017 and has struggled to hold onto customers. Mulvaney said the administration’s planwould not only save the government money, but also provide people with more nutritious food than they have now.
The idea that USDA would provide millions of low-income people packages of food on a national scale has not been floated by conservative think tanks, promoted by industry, or sought by previous administrations. Murtaugh said the concept was developed internally at USDA. Mulvaney on Monday credited Perdue for it during a briefing at the White House.
"Secretary Perdue wanted to give it a chance," he said. "We thought it was a tremendous idea."
Numerous questions remain, such as how these boxes would be customized for, say, a family that has a child with nut allergies — or for those who don't eat certain types of meat out of religious or personal reasons. The proposal was so out of left field that some anti-hunger advocates initially thought it was a joke.Autism presents another problem for such a scheme. Some low-income families have autistic children. Most autistic children have problems with food selectivity. They not just "picky eaters" like many typically developing children. They cannot tolerate certain kinds of foods and often subsist on an extremely narrow diet. Marci Wheeler writes at Indiana University:
Many parents of children on the autism spectrum struggle with their child’s severe eating problems with little or no professional help. In part, this is simply due to the limited number of specialists dealing with eating and feeding disorders. Furthermore, within this limited number of specialists there are few that have much understanding and experience with children who have autism spectrum disorders. A frequently suggested strategy for many children with eating and feeding disorders involves withholding food until the child is hungry enough to eat. This approach has been shown to be dangerous and not appropriate for a child on the autism spectrum. Unfortunately, professionals as well as concerned family members and friends mistakenly blame parents of children with autism spectrum disorders for their child’s poor eating habits. Sometimes parents’ concerns are ignored and they are told not to worry since most children go through stages of picky eating and food fads.The Trump scheme would mean that many of these kids would go hungry.