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Dining Out with a Child with Autism

Dining Out with a Child with Autism

Going out to dinner with a child who has autism can be very stressful, and I know you parents out there know exactly what I mean. Will they sit? Will they eat? Will I be able to eat? How much time will we have before we need to leave? My son is 13 years old and over the years I have learned a few things to make the experience manageable and sometimes even enjoyable now. Here are my tips:

Choose the right restaurant.

I always try to pick a child-friendly restaurant where there will surely be other children and is loud and upbeat, so that any sounds or noise my child makes will likely blend in with the others and no one will find the need to stare (hopefully).

Order the food to arrive at the same time.

I find it best to order everyone’s food all at once, this way it all comes together. If I order for him first, he will get it and finish eating before I even start. I will often even take a look at the menu online before we arrive so it does not take as long to decide what to order. Trust me, this save a bunch of time.

Bring distractions.

I call it my magic bag, and it has lots of things to occupy my son’s time at the table: books, headphones, video games—whatever it takes. Know what your child will need to help them sit for a period of time. What I carry with me has changed over time, as he has changed, but my bag is still always stocked and ready to go. This is very helpful!

Seat him where he is most comfortable.

I have found that where my son sits at the table has an effect on the outing. I try not to place him in an aisle where people pass by and his chair may be continuously bumped. This might cause some frustration and is something I would be trying to avoid in a restaurant. I find the best place for him to sit is with the back of his chair up against a wall.

Get the check right away.

Once we have just about finished eating, I will ask for the check. This way, it is at the table and you don’t have to track down your server if your child has reached her limit. Even if you are able to sit for a little bit, you know that you have the check, so you can get up and leave when you are ready to go.

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Dana Greenberg


 Dana Greenberg is a mom of twins living in Manhattan. Dana's site The Autism Club was created as a way to connect moms who have kids with special needs, like her son Jack--who has autism--and offer them a space to tell their stories. You can follow Dana on Twitter @theautismclub or on Facebook @theautismclub.

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