It’s not uncommon for children on the autism spectrum to struggle with sensory sensitivities, and, subsequently, food selectivity. Many children, and even some adults, with the disorder cannot stand the tastes and textures of certain foods and therefore self-limit their diets to only a select few foods. This can sometimes cause issues with malnutrition, and it can also be a huge problem if something happens to limit their access to their favorite foods.
In three-year-old Libby Crossfield‘s case, pandemic-induced supply shortages are the culprit responsible for making two of the only foods she’ll eat unavailable in stores. Three-year-old Libby only eats Aldi brand Weetabix and two flavors of Mamia baby food—spaghetti bolognese and spaghetti with tomato and mozzarella sauce.
Libby’s mother, Emma Armstrong, has been to all the Aldi stores in her area in search of the baby food Libby needs, but it’s been out of stock in every location. She’s left her number with managers and asked them to call her if they get it back in stock.
Emma has also been in touch with the manufacturer in an attempt to determine when Aldi will get its next delivery. So far, lots of people are working on the issue, including Libby’s family and friends. She’s been able to get a few tubs of the food from other people who found them in stores, but she hasn’t been able to set up a regular supply.
Emma, who also has 5-year-old twin boys and works in a restaurant, typically keeps her fridge stocked at all times to be safe, but the stores have been out of the product or low in stock for long enough that she was almost out, and she’s had to search and beg for help.
“Aldi say they can’t tell me where it’s in stock and won’t give me the contact numbers for all the stores, so I’ve been driving round to them all and giving them my phone number, saying, ‘Please call me if stock arrives.
“It might seem like a small issue to some people but we’re just hitting a brick wall. Aldi are not helping at all other than a standard response. I know they have the stock, the manufacturer told me it arrived from France at the weekend. I just need them to get some to me.”
An Aldi spokesperson had this to say: “We are sorry to hear that Emma hasn’t been able to find our Mamia dishes in store. We are working hard with our supplier to deliver Libby’s favourite Mamia dishes to her directly in time for her big birthday.”
Libby’s fourth birthday is this Saturday. Emma is expecting to receive some food from Aldi over the weekend, but she doesn’t know how much or whether she’ll be able to get it regularly.
If Libby is left with only wheat cereal in her diet, she could quickly become malnourished due to a lack of a range of nutrients. But beyond that, Emma is worried that going without the Mamia baby food for an extended period of time may make it difficult to reintroduce it back into Libby’s diet, since she is so sensitive to different textures and tastes. Losing familiarity with the baby food could cause her to have trouble eating it again. In fact, she used to eat other flavors of Mamia baby food, but she has restricted her own diet even more over time than it used to be.
“Libby has never eaten a solid food and is still spoon-fed by an adult,” says Emma. “She used to eat more of a variety of baby food but this has decreased to these particular foods. My concern is that if this food is taken away from her diet for a time I won’t be able to reintroduce it, this will lead to malnutrition and eventually, we could end up with tube feeding or peg feeding.”
Emma says tracking down Libby’s beloved baby food has become like a full-time job. Other important tasks, like finding a school that can accommodate Libby’s special needs, have had to be put aside until she can get this vital issue sorted out.
Emma and her husband, Andy Crossfield, say their daughter is a “little miracle.” She was conceived naturally after the couple needed IVF to have their boys.
“She’s such a happy little girl,” said Emma, “She knows some words but she can’t communicate effectively. She can label me as ‘mummy’ when I walk in the room, but if she wants my attention, she won’t say ‘mummy.’ She uses echolalia, so she’ll repeat phrases. She can’t tell me that something’s wrong, but if she’s distressed or upset, she’ll repeat ‘what’s the matter, what’s the matter.’ She loves her letters and numbers though, and she can read, even if she doesn’t always understand the words.”
In the midst of all this chaos, Emma is planning Libby’s birthday festivities.
“She loves Peppa Pig, so she’s getting lots of Peppa Pig toys for her birthday,” she says. “We’ll be getting her a cake. She won’t eat it, but we always get a cake for her birthday. It would be nice to just be able to focus on her day and not have to worry about running out of the only food she’ll eat.”
As many of our readers know, this issue is about more than just a little kid being picky. Libby has a real disorder and real sensitivities that require special care and attention. We hope Libby gets more of her beloved spaghetti baby foods soon! Happy birthday, sweet girl!Whizzco