Going out for a meal is not always an easy thing to do. Some restaurants can be too busy, noisy and have a lot of distractions to cause sensory overload. Others may not cater for plain enough food to match our children’s tastes. We have found that our two ASD children have a restricted diet, our son’s more than most. Yesterday we had a meal at a burger restaurant. It suited our children as we were able to sit in a booth, which offers some protection from distractions and privacy from others. Our youngest son always says people are looking at him. If we weren’t sitting in a booth, he would be hiding under the table. This causes lots of comments as people presume him to be naughty and have no table manners.
The kids chose a plain burger and fries, which seemed a good option. However, as it was a freshly prepared burger and not a processed one, it was not a perfect round shape. This caused immense problems for our daughter and she refused to eat it, as it wasn’t the ‘normal’ burger shape. Our youngest son saw a speck of black on his burger and that stopped him from eating it. He doesn’t eat fries anyway, so he just ate a couple of pieces of cucumber from his plate. Simple things like this that most of us would take in our stride are big issues for people with ASD.
As parents, we are conscious of looks we get from other diners when meltdowns occur. More often than not we settle for the easy option and go to McDonalds, where we can sit in the car if it’s too busy to go inside or we will get a takeaway meal to have at home.
To help our children understand the social expectations required of them when out and about they need to experience activities like eating out. We must learn to ignore the comments made by others who do not understand our children’s needs. As a country though, more autism awareness training is required for people working with the general public, so that they understand how people with autism think and understand the world around them. With more people being diagnosed, there will be a greater need for awareness as the current generation progress to adults. Support the NAS campaign entitled ‘Push for Action’. Its’ aim is to ensure adults with autism get the support they need http://www.autism.org.uk/push