There are moments when the collision of two worlds can bring about positive events. In my case, those two worlds are food and autism. My husband and I are consultants for families who wish to set up intensive behavioral programs for their children on the autism spectrum. The dedication of these families to making the lives of their children the best that they can be is nothing short of astounding. In many places, funding for autism treatments is minimal or nonexistent. That’s right – there is often no funding available for children who are diagnosed with the fastest-growing childhood disorder. One in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism. That means that you probably know someone who has a family member effected by autism. If you do, that means you know that raising a child with autism is no cakewalk.
That being said, I have fallen in love with the kids I work with. Despite their learning difficulties and higher levels of negative behaviors, they like to have fun and enjoy life as much as any other child. To see the pride on their faces when they master a new task or to hear them giggle when their parents doing something silly makes the world seem full of hope and innocence. These children and their families have a long journey in front of them – a journey that will be filled with heartache and joy.
What can you do to help these families? Raising funds and awareness would be the obvious answer, and those things are desperately needed. If you are interested, check out the fund-raising events put on by Autism Speaks. However, I would like to suggest something simpler. Whenever you see a child out in public, whether it’s at the grocery store or the park, who is clearly having a difficult time behaviorally, be gentle in your judgement. While it may just be a typical child throwing a tantrum over a coveted candy bar, it is also possible that this may be a child with autism. Be aware that the parents are doing the best that they can do and that the child is NOT just being naughty. Don’t watch them with judgmental eyes. All they ask for is a little understanding and acceptance.
Since entering the world of food blogging, I have come to appreciate the generous nature of many food bloggers. When Neil of At My Table suggested a food blogging event in honor of World Autism Awareness Day, many bloggers jumped at the chance to be involved and to help raise awareness. Neil, who has a daughter with autism, suggested cooking foods using a single color, which is representative of the limited food repertoires that many people with autism have. Considering that many of our clients are on gluten- and casein-free diets, I decided to take this one step further and develop a recipe that fits those criteria. To show support for autism awareness, everyone is encouraged to wear blue today, which is what inspired the blueberry ice cream.
In a medium saucepan, combine 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, mashing the blueberries with the back of a fork. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes.
In a blender, combine 3 cups coconut milk (the full-fat version), the blueberry mixture, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Cover and chill the mixture until cold, about 2 hours.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in the freezer for several hours, or until ice cream hardens. The ice cream can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 week.
Gluten- & Dairy-Free Blueberry Coconut Ice Cream
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 cups coconut milk (full-fat version), well stirred
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar, and salt. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, mashing the blueberries with the back of a fork. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes.
In a blender, combine coconut milk, the blueberry mixture, and vanilla extract. Cover and chill the mixture until cold, about 2 hours.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in the freezer for several hours, or until ice cream hardens. The ice cream can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 week.
Makes 1 quart.