Alex would learn to pilot an F-16 in exchange for a chocolate-chip cookie.

Autism parenting sites all warn about overusing bribes, but nothing sticks Alex to his barber’s chair or to a seat at a family event like a chocolate chip cookie. Jill whipped them out to get us all through last Passover (“Sit down, Alex, or no cookies. NO. cookies!”…), and it worked, more or less. He’s sat through dinners in restaurants, movies, circuses.

Not oatmeal raisin nor peanut butter. Not macadamia nut nor Cherry Wink. Maybe a straight chocolate cookie, probably for a brownie, but not for a doughnut of any flavor at all.

“Cook-KIE!” he says in the kitchen. “Cook-KIE!” he says in the store. To him, Chips Ahoy are currency. He can find the aisle in any Duane Reade or CVS he been in even just once (with a quick detour to the household section to utter “Red!” and reach for a bottle of Tide – which we usually of course don’t need and I can’t figure out why he wants the Tide anyway since all he ever does when I take him to the laundry room to help with the wash is root around on the magazine table for National Geographics or House and Gardens).


“Saltines instead, Alex? Are you sure you want cookies?” He reaches up. “How about the small package?” I say. Four Chips Ahoy. Plenty.

“Cook-KIE?” He raises his arm – he doesn’t really point – toward the single stack. He’d sure take the three-stack jumbo bag – and polish them off in less than one evening and in less than maybe two complete Elmo videos – but I’m not so far gone as a dad as to allow that.

Alex also goes gaga for Jill’s chocolate chip cookies. She often mixes up a big bowl of batter – with a dash of coconut – and wraps a couple of batter logs in plastic and sticks them in the fridge or freezer. I confess I like the batter, too, and will quietly as possible unwrap the batter logs in those rare moments my family actually leaves me the hell alone in a room of our apartment and will knife off what’s surely an unnoticeable slice. Jill keeps saying I shouldn’t because it’s too fattening. Better than sneaking gin, isn’t it?

Besides, Alex steals, too. When we make a batch in the evening, each of the kids get four and Jill and I each get three. Alex gobbles his in a flash, then prowls (take notice when he stops prowling). Is daddy watching his bowl? Yes. Is mommy watching her bowl? Yes. Is Ned…

“Hey!” Ned finds his empty bowl. Alex hasn’t eaten them yet, at least not all of them, just dumped them into his own bowl and scurried back into his room. Sometimes we’re fast enough to rescue a few for Ned. Sometimes not. You learn to live with it in this business.

“Alex, give me back your bowl!” I demand.

This bowl? his face seems to reply. Sure! He hands it over with his right while I see his left slipping something behind his back. “Give’em back, Alex! You had your four!” At least, those four are the ones we know about.

Jeff Stimpson, 49, is a native of Bangor, Maine, and lives in New York with his wife Jill and two sons. He is the author of Alex: The Fathering of a Preemie and Alex the Boy: Episodes From a Family’s Life With Autism (both available on Amazon). He maintains a blog about his family at, and is a frequent contributor to various sites and publications on special-needs parenting, such as Autism-Asperger’s Digest, Autism Spectrum News, and The Autism Society news blog.