Monday, January 21, 2013

"Holy Crap"-eteria, An Aspie Poem

Those that know a school aged kid on the spectrum probably know how overstimulating the school cafeteria can be.  Spectrum-y kids tend to have heightened senses, especially hearing, smell and sight, which makes a busy place like the lunchroom even more annoying to them than the average joe.  I mean, really-- do you like to eat in there?!  The cafeteria is particularly stressful for my Princess, and often leads to her imminent defeat on days when she is already having trouble behaving at school.  I thought I'd give you a little insight about how it feels to be an Aspie in the cafeteria, based on my Princess's plethora of complaints about eating lunch in there.  :)

"Holy Crap"-eteria

I walk into the lunchroom
and what smacks me in the face?
A wall of noise, bright lights, loud boys--
You want me to do what in this place?!!!

I head toward my class's table
past 200 students that I don't call friends
to sit too close to others to EAT?!!
The torture here never ends.

The room smells of canned vegetables
and very yeasty, doughy bread.
And worse, all the folks that work there
wear these hairnets on their heads.

I know those nets are for hygiene,
but secretly I am afraid
that the nets MUST be on their heads because
they found a hair on the pretzel braids.

All the lunch ladies seem to yell at me
as I'm going through the line for food.
I can't understand a word they say
and it makes me mad that they are so rude.

As I'm sitting at the table,
Wishing for more space in which to dine,
All I hear and see is the grossness of chewing-- UGH!
Suddenly, I can no longer contain my whine.


And then like a flash,
With a bang and a crash,
I am racing out the cafeteria door.

After half an hour in such a stimulating place
Is it really such a surprise,
That when walking back to class, away from that hell
I am angry and have tears in my eyes?!!

Of all the problems that elementary school presents,
this is one that I never seem to master.
Maybe one day, not so far away,
The cafeteria will seem less of a disaster.

But until then, please try to understand
I'm not trying to be mean or unruly.
I'm just trying so hard to not feel overwhelmed
That I'm unable to be good-- truly.

So-- if you see a terrified or angry Aspie leaving the school lunchroom, please resist the urge to hug or touch them.  They are already overstimulated enough!  Instead, try to be understanding if they are talking too loud, or are intolerant of others-- they just need to decompress and get the ringing out of their ears.  The shouting in your general direction is nothing personal-- trust me! ;)


  1. Wow! I couldn't have said it better myself. My son is on the spectrum and can totally relate! Now that he's in middle school the cafeteria is even more crowded. Sometimes he chooses to eat lunch in the classroom with his Social skills teacher who is more than accommodating with this.
    Can't wait to read more of your blog and thanks for stopping by mine! Following you on Networked blogs and google+.

    1. Glad you stopped in, Katie! I'm glad I found myself in Dysfunction Junction earlier today, as well. :) Looks like we may have a few things in common...

  2. Not sure where your daughter falls in regards to certain stimulation, but here are some tips that have worked for other people (those on and off the spectrum that don't like crowded, noisy, smelly places):

    1. Wearing earplugs prior to entering to reduce the noise. They're not very noticeable (unless you get the bright orange ones) and can be discreetly put in while in the bathroom.

    2. Working with the teacher and depending upon sensory needs, being able to spend up to 5 minutes in the bathroom running water over hands. Some people find this soothing, and can reduce some of the initial anxiety and agitation.

    3. Having a physical distraction while eating to help focus (yes, I mean that). It sounds counterproductive, but it has worked. Something simple like having a penny in the pocket to rub, trying to press down with each toe individually (harder than it sounds), etc.

    4. Doing mental notes of things they want to do, want to improve, practicing speeches, etc. We all do this at some point and it helps the time to move faster. My suggestion would be whatever is bothering her (for example the smells) to think about how others may perceive it as well, such as animals with more or less sensitive sense of smell.

    5. At the end there should be some kind of physical outlet available to help decompress from the situation.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions, Perry! We have tried the earplug thing, and they drive P insane! She doesn't like the feeling of pressure inside her ear and she ends up scratching and clawing at her outer ear when she wears them. She *does* get recess after lunch most days, which helps some, but it can seem like a really long walk from the cafeteria to the playground-- long enough to get in trouble walking in line in the hall, at the very least. She also usually takes a stuffed animal with her (both girls do), which seems to help quite a bit. I'm going to suggest the mental distraction idea to her and her teacher, though, as I don't think anyone has tried that with her before. Thanks again, friend!

    2. What about ear clips?

      I can't tolerate earbuds, but these fit individually in each ear. You can cut the cords and she just wear them like earmuffs.

  3. You never cease to amaze me! I'm with cafeterias are H*LL!!!

  4. Oh, my, do I remember how many of my students with Autism and Aspergers struggled with the cafeteria. As a teacher, I was all for helping kids tolerate things that are hard for them, but the cafeteria just seemed like torture, plain and simple. I never understood why the administration wasn't more supportive of an alternative.

  5. How sweet! I have a little one with physical disabilities so I know how hard it can be to hope that the world would be more accommodating. I am your newest follower and was hopin' that you'd pop on by my blog, stay for a while, and maybe follow me back!

    Have a lovely day,

  6. That was amazing! I wish every teacher in every school should have a copy of that. Some people are not tolerant at all. The should be eased into that kids of situation.

  7. Thank you for linking up with Messy Moms Messy Monday! This is so funny and so true! Cant wait to see what you bring for us next Monday

  8. Very nicely put! I can relate a bit now to how they must feel.

  9. What a great poem. Thanks for sharing it. I hope a lot of people could read this.