Going out to a restaurant with an autistic child can be an experience fraught with tension and a sense of foreboding. Restaurants can be noisy, crowded places, and filled with unwanted surprises, and potentially filled with embarrassing, attention-getting outbursts.
A restaurant outing also be unusually welcoming, as Amy Leonard Goehner, a writer at Time Magazine and mother of 13-year-old Nate, who describes a special program organized at T.G.I.Friday's restaurants in New Jersey recently. You can find Geohner's August 15 article, "Dining Out with an Autistic Child," by clicking here.
Geohner praises Alexandra Abend, a 16-year-old who has a younger brother with autism, for working with the restaurant chain to organize Autism Family Nights at 35 T.G.I.Fridays; the staff at the restaurants got some awareness training about autism and how to treat families when they came in (don't worry if someone gets upset; bring the check quickly). Goehner urges other restaurants to see the opportunity for increased revenue by showing a bit of understanding.
"Launching a program like this takes time and dedication, and unfortunately, for those of us with autistic children, time and dedication are already monopolized," Goehner writes. "But here's hoping that T.G.I.Friday's—or someone—sees an opportunity, where most just see a screaming child."