We Only Have Twenty Minutes
We like to go out to eat and have fun. When our son was first diagnosed, we read a lot. Faby read a lot of blogs and testimonials while I favored obscure scientific literature that I can summarize to: “each child is unique; we don’t really know much but hey this method seems to have worked for someone at some point”. The blogs and testimonials pretty much said the same thing. There is no magical, quick-fix formula to raising a child and there absolutely no blueprint on raising one who is on the spectrum. After much belly aching, we had a late-night conversation and decided that we would live our lives as fully as we can. I recall that we forcefully discussed including our child into as much of our activities as we could. We would bring him on trips, take him to the beach, enjoy the pool and stroll in the park. That also includes the seemingly mundane activities of going out to dinner at restaurants where the staff did not necessarily understand our case. So here are some items I wish every restaurant knew or did when we show up at their place:
1. We are on the clock: We chose your restaurant after reading reviews and doing research on the Google. Chances are it is a great place that we love. However, our child might not like the smell, the sounds, or the décor. This might be an immediate reaction at which point we will leave, or it might develop over time as he absorbs the environment. In short, we are on the clock. We would really appreciate it if you took our order as fast as possible and let the kitchen know we are on the clock in case they can fast track the order. We would also appreciate the check as early as possible as we might have to leave in a hurry.
2. Three show up but two eat: Although we are a trio, our child never eats the food at the restaurant. Although the table setup is beautiful and great, the extra setting and menus can become tools, weapons, or toys in the hands of a child. We would appreciate it if the setup is for two although we are occupying three seats
3. The corner is safer: In the cases when our child loves your restaurant, you probably have shiny objects, a musical instrument or some oddly shaped decoration. Faby and I eat on alert in case the kid wants to go check out the bling. We would appreciate a corner table where we can physically block his path and redirect in case of need.
4. Wifi Please: We observed that some restaurants stopped offering wifi which means we must carry three or four devices to keep our child engaged while we eat. Remember, we are on the clock although we are also on a date. Please have Wifi available and the code handy. This can easily buy us an extra fifteen to twenty minute to enjoy a dessert at your great place.
Originally, our biggest concern was bothering other diners. Soon enough, we realized that something beautiful was happening. In almost every restaurant we have ever been too, the staff was wonderful, attentive, and responsive. The diners were even better. They laughed when our child did something silly, and were patient when he invaded their space, cried, or tried to throw a tantrum. We are grateful to all those strangers especially early on. It helped us build confidence and taught us that despite all of our differences, children have a special way of bringing everyone together.