Jack’s Snacks truly burst – like popcorn – when local ABC affiliate WFAA aired its story about Arlington resident Jack Richardson on April 24.
Jack, 22, was featured by Teresa Woodard, who reported about his YouTube videos, Jack’s Snacks, and his life with autism. Since then, things have continued to explode for the Richardson family: parents, Amy and Blue Richardson and twin brother, Sam.
First, the story about then 21-year-old Jack was picked up by local affiliates as well as ABC News Tonight’s feature #americastrong. Jack has also been highlighted on the social media of Autism Speaks, and he and Amy were recently interviewed by Reid Mills for his podcast, “Inside the Asperger’s Studio.” Companies like Sabra, Two Men and a Garden, and Conagra Brands have sent Jack food to try during Jack’s Snacks.
It all started with watermelon in June 2022. The family had been eating healthier, and Amy and Jack were shopping at Sprouts. He said he would like to start trying more foods, as until that point, Jack had a regular rotation of 5-7 foods that comprised his daily routine. Because of his love and admiration for his grandfather, he decided to try watermelon, one of Grandpa Mike’s favorites.
“When we came home, he was ready to eat that piece of watermelon,” said Amy. “I took a video; I could not believe he put it in his mouth.”
Blue, who describes Jack as “kind of a ham,” said, “Looking back, I think he really liked that Amy made a big deal of it – shared [the video] with us and shared it with family members – and he got positive reinforcement.”
“I kind of thought it was a one-time thing, until the next week, he says, ‘What are we trying this week?’ It just took off from there,” said Amy.
Each time Jack tried a new food, Amy would record his experience and add it to her Facebook page. Family and friends were enjoying Jack’s experiments with new things, and “it just kept morphing from there.”
A friend encouraged the Richardsons to name the short videos, and Jack’s Snacks was born. By its one-year anniversary in July, Jack had added a YouTube channel, an Instagram account, and TikTok to the mix. Jack even sells merchandise with his catch phrases that end each segment. One of them, “Do Hard Things”, is especially poignant for the Richardson family.
“The ‘do hard things’ motto was to inspire others to do hard things,” said Jack.
And inspiring others is something Jack does best.
“When you try hard things, it can be hard at first,” said Jack. “After you try it, you realize, ‘Hey, it isn’t that bad at all.’”
As a result of the WFAA piece, Jack’s reach has extended far beyond family and friends. Amy and Blue say Jack is being recognized, from the grocery store to where he gets his haircuts. One of Amy’s friends was at a festival in Pinetop, Arizona, recently and struck up a conversation with a vendor. They started talking, and she realized that this person who had never met Jack was watching Jack’s Snacks regularly.
“I get messages or comments from families, with or without autism, saying, ‘This is inspiring my child. My child tried a new food this week.’ People send us videos saying, ‘My child hasn’t eaten anything’ in how ever long, and now they’re watching Jack and they’re doing hard things,” said Amy.
One of Jack’s former Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapists who now lives in West Virginia had a client she was trying to help. The client’s son would not try new foods, so Jack and Amy agreed to have a video chat with him.
“The kid, I think, thought he was talking to a celebrity,” said Blue. “and then he tried zucchini.”
After Jack announced on one of his taste-testing segments that he planned to sell “merch”, the family worked together to develop his Shopify site and the items he could offer. This fall, he will move his shop to Etsy. Jack donates some of the proceeds to The Rutledge Cancer Foundation in memory of his best friend, Tate Wood, who died in 2021.
“I just want to help other people who are battling cancer and honor my best friend Tate in a very special way,” said Jack.
Amy has sent t-shirts all over, from California to New York.
Jack’s Snacks and Jack’s personal journey over the past year are truly remarkable. Things were never easy for Jack, diagnosed with autism between 18 months and two years, and the Richardsons. The autism was detected when Jack was not hitting the same milestones as his twin brother Sam.
“When you think of the lifelong struggle it’s taken to get to this point,” said Amy, “It’s amazing.”
“Twenty years ago, we were learning as we went,” said Amy about their experiences with a child who has autism. After the diagnosis, Amy and Blue checked out every book they could find at the library. They found Catherine Maurice’s Let Me Hear Your Voice especially influential. She recommended Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which is all about positive reinforcement.
“ABA was the only double-blind, placebo-tested scientific path to proven results, so we were like, ‘I don’t care if we have to go into thousands and thousands of dollars in debt, but this is what we’re doing,’” said Blue.
“When you get the diagnosis, you’ve got a million things to work on: Speech and motor skills and eye contact,” said Amy. “The list is a mile long, so when [Jack] started self restricting, he was still eating a few things, so we’re like, ‘Well, he’s eating something. He’ll be okay.’”
From his formerly short list of “safe foods” to the number of foods he eats today, Jack has made significant progress and influenced children and adults to do hard things. Almost 60 videos later, some of his new favorite foods include spaghetti, pizza, salmon, zucchini, and of course, his Uncle Dub’s chicken chili.
Jack also loves to write stories, draw, and create animated short films. He is writing a book, The Faithful Family and Friends of Jack’s Pack, where each page highlights a different family member. He draws a picture from a snapshot and writes about how each person is great.
Family and friends have played a key role in Jack’s development, and he will often feature them on Jack’s Snacks. And what does twin brother, Sam, think about Jack’s Snacks?
“He thinks it’s awesome and he’s probably pretty lucky to have a twin brother like me,” said Jack, who also made it clear that Sam is two minutes younger.
Just Take a Bite: Easy, Effective Answers to Food Aversions and Eating Challenges! by Lori Ernsperger
Let Me Hear Your Voice: A Family’s Triumph Over Autism by Catherine Maurice
WFAA.com, “21-year-old Texan with autism eating new things to inspire others”
@jackrichardsonsnacks on Instagram and YouTube