April 5, 2023

I once read an article about an autistic girl who wouldn’t eat her hamburger because it was sliced into two halves, and was therefore “broken.”

The article praised the restaurant for bringing her a new burger, understanding that autism makes it harder to handle change and surprises (e.g. an unusually prepared burger).

But that poor child! Since she’s autistic, she’s likely very literal, yet it doesn’t sound like anyone took the time to explain to her that “broken” doesn’t always mean “bad.”

All her life she’s probably been told, “Don’t use that – it’s broken and we need to fix it!” (Or worse, “You’re broken and we need to fix you!”)

She may not understand that some things are just as delicious in two pieces. She may need to be explicitly taught the exceptions to the rule.

She may also have a sensory preference for whole burgers! But I think it’s more likely that her understanding of brokenness was missing some nuance.

The story went viral, but no one seemed interested in giving the girl more information, or finding out why she reacted that way. They left it at, “Haha, she thinks it’s broken, that’s so cute and silly.”

Kids deserve information. They also deserve to be trusted that their preferences make sense given the info that they have.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.