Going out to eat with a child who has special needs, such as autism or cerebral palsy can be challenging. Other diners might not always understand your child’s needs, and you might need special accommodations from the restaurant. But taking your child out to eat is a good opportunity to acclimate your child to new environments. Dining out can also be an enjoyable experience if you learn some of these techniques.
Know Your Child’s Limits
When you have a child with special needs, you should know their limits and understand how you can plan ahead to create the best possible environment for them to grow slowly. For instance, if you have a child with autism who gets overwhelmed when there are too many sounds, go during slower times.
Some children with cerebral palsy have difficulties eating, but it’s important that children get adequate amounts of food and liquids. Children with cerebral palsy sometimes choke on their food and drinks, which can be alarming for other patrons of the restaurant. You could have your child eat their main course at home. Then, when you go out to eat, your child can have a treat that they can eat slowly at the restaurant, such as a smoothie or milkshake.
Develop a Relationship With the Servers
If you have a child with autism and the texture sensitivities that often comes with the disorder, you know how important it is to eliminate certain foods or have them cut a certain way. When you develop relationships with the servers, they’ll learn what your child needs and advocate for him and his needs to the cooks. Many times, they’ll even get your child’s order in early because they already know what he’ll want. And, of course, when you develop a relationship with the servers, they’ll be able to understand your child’s needs and behaviors better, which makes the entire dining experience more enjoyable.
If you have a child with cerebral palsy who has difficulties swallowing certain foods, when you develop a relationship with the waitstaff, it’ll be easier to get some foods modified to make eating easier for your child.
Keep Extra Toys On Hand
If your child with autism has difficulties waiting for his food, know what will make the wait easier for him. If looking out the window calms him, ask for a booth seat, and if he has grown so accustomed to a certain seat, call ahead to make sure that it will be available. You can also bring fidget spinners or anything else that makes him calm.
There are a lot of benefits to going out to eat with your child with special needs. In fact, for some children, it can even be an education in learning to advocate for themselves and ask for what they want.