Thursday, May 6, 2010

To Dine Out or Not With Autism?

As the parent of 4 children I am often thankful that it is my youngest child who has Autism. Since the two older children are 10 and 12 years older then Austin, I think we put sometimes unfair expectations on Austin even with the autism. And by unfair I do not mean we ever pushed him to the breaking point, but we pushed him to very close. We pushed him to learn how to behave in public, including sit at football games, to behave at eating out and how to behave at amusement parks. It really helped that the two older children had really busy social calendars and even with Autism we kept doing those things on a regular basis.

While I do not think my child is anywhere close to the typical child with Autism, I do sometimes think that parents of small children with Autism think their child could never do “something”. My example of something for this purpose is sit at a restaurant for dinner. I often hear from my mentees that their 3 year old could never ever make it through dinner at a casual restaurant like Chili’s, Applebee’s, Bob Evans, Coco’s, etc. I also hear that because of diet they could never eat out at any of the above places.

I want to put both of those myths to bed. First and foremost just saying the words “the American’s with Disabilities act” generally makes anyone objecting to me bringing in food for Austin to stop objecting. If that does not work I will use the phrase “anaphylaxis” allergy and liable if injured or death occurs from food eaten at the restaurant, most managers then back slowly away and tell the server it is ok.

Yet this is not why I am writing this blog, it is more for the parents who tell me, my child would never sit through dinner. If you think that way your child will never sit through dinner. You will end up with an adult with Autism who can’t sit through dinner.

Now I am not suggesting you show up to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse at 6 pm on a Friday night with your 3 year old with Autism. That would be stupid and a waste of money. What I am suggesting is showing up at somewhere for dinner at 3 pm, when the crowds are small and the servers have very few tables. Then if your child with Autism acts up you can redirect and work on the bad behaviors with less of an audience. You also can leave and take your food to go if necessary. Once you have done this successfully a few times you move the time slot to 4 pm. Now the 4 pm time slot along with the 5 pm time slot will be a tougher crowd. You may have the older people crowd who do not always understand autism and who may think you are not spanking your child enough. The plus will be that the restaurant will still be less busy, but a little busy and more stimulus going on so your child can work on learning the skills he or she will need to make it successfully at a restaurant at dinner.

Always be prepared when going out- place a bag full of items in your trunk. One's that your child doesn't play with at home or only see's when going out. Not only will they keep them occupied, the new toys/books will keep it fresh and fun! We used to always travel with a portable DVD player and lots of stuff to do. Now days we travel light with an iPod Touch and some fun inexpensive apps. Another great trick to helping children behave in restaurants is to pick a loud restaurant, one that plays music or has TVs are always good choices. Then the noise of a small child is less noticeable

After successfully getting through dinner, you can work on so many things when out in public places- sitting quietly, waiting, behaviors, manners, etc. Don't be afraid to go places with your child with autism - get them out into the world, the sooner you do the sooner you both will realized that it can be an enjoyable experience. You can have family time and eve a family meal in public. Don’t worry if it doesn’t go well the first time. Don’t give up on your child. They will thank you for it later :)

Until next time PITAup and make the world a little more Autism friendly.

1 comment:

  1. That loud restaurant thing and/or going early (around 3 or 4) works very well for us.