Years ago, the idea of traveling for the holidays was a nightmare. I had just become aware of my multiple food sensitivities as an adult with ADD. My food sensitivities closely matched my son’s, and he has autism. Our worst sensitivities include gluten and casein, although there are many more. Our first Thanksgiving that we spent food allergen free was simple. It was at home with just the three of us and we focused on trying to heal ourselves.
Everything on the holiday table was absolutely allergen free for us, from the turkey to the sparkling cider. There was no risk of contamination with any allergens. Our toddler with autism also got to stay at home where he was comfortable. Our meal at home was the only way I felt safe that Thanksgiving.
When we were invited to my in-laws for Christmas, we didn’t know what to think. While we didn’t want to avoid our family during the holidays, we didn’t know how our autistic behavior and food issues could effect the trip. There are not health food stores to brag about in the area where my mother and father-in-law lived at the time.
When I told my mother-in-law that I could no longer eat wheat flour, “Oh, so you can eat white flour?” was her initial response. That made me very worried.
We did go to Idaho for Christmas that year and we loved being with our family members after spending a holiday on our own. I took some flours and cookbooks with me. (Nowdays I am focused on a more paleo style of eating, but back then I was not.) I made a loaf of gluten free pumpkin bread that was a big hit with everyone. Our son’s odd behavior was not only tolerated, but our family all enjoyed him just as we do.
My in-laws were wonderful. I didn’t realize how much my mother-in-law learned about our food sensitivities before we came. We had only one mild case of allergy contamination during the days we were there. It was such a small reaction compared to what we were used to having that it hardly bothered us. My son and I have honestly never, ever been contaminated with any of our major food allergens when we have gone to stay with them in all the years since.
What a wonderful gift my mother and father-in-law gave to us that Christmas. Having a safe place to go and take our son with autism was extremely meaningful to us. We learned that autism and our food intolerance did not have to rule our lives or change our holidays when it came to people who matter. Their awareness and efforts in educating themselves created a safe environment for us, and what a gift that is.