What if that Child is Autistic?


You know you’ve done it. You’re in a restaurant and the couple next to you has children. One of the kids begins to act up. The child starts yelling and screaming and maybe even throwing things. You take one look at that bad ass kid, cut your eyes at the parents and then promptly ask to be moved. You don’t even pretend like you’re not moving because of them. And if your food is already on the table, you shoot evil looks at the parents and make sure to talk about them amongst whomever is at your table. You also feel resentment toward them as you rush to finish your food and leave.

You do not like these people. They have ruined your dining experience. Their kids have no damn home training.

And perhaps you’re right…but what if the kid is autistic?

I recently read an article on CNN.com about this. The story was about a woman who took her autistic 7 year old sister to Chilli’s and the child didn’t like the burger she was given. The older sister promptly explained to the waitress that her sister was autistic and that she’d pay for the new burger. The waitress treated the situation as if it was no big deal and both she and the manager showed real compassion and sensitivity as they apologized to the young girl. They also didn’t charge the sister for the burger. Ultimately, their handling of the situation kept it from morphing into a terrible one.

As I read this story, I was filled with the usual warmth and happiness that overflows my senses whenever I read a story on human kindness. I even felt my usual tears start to fall. (I held them back like a BOSS though!) But you know what stood out to me the most about this story? The woman’s surprise at her positive experience. She had, literally, never been in a restaurant where people responded so nicely to her and her sister. That is so sad. My heart just ached for this woman, because I can’t imagine how hard it must be to go out with a child that you can’t always control, because of medical reasons. And I also felt bad, because I too, have been one of those people who lacked compassion.

I determined right then and there, that I’d never again make an assumption about what’s happening at someone else’s table.

Now, am I saying that I’m going to never move away from people with unruly children in a restaurant? No. Autistic or not, I’m not about to spend good money to have to pretend like you don’t have an angry chuck e’ cheese mob at your table. However, in the future, I definitely intend to be more sensitive. Regardless of what’s happening, I’m going to stay positive. I’ll move away, but I’ll be sure to smile as I do it. And when I see a kid freaking out, I’ll keep my judgements to myself. Because you know what? I don’t know someone’s situation. And I can’t see anything fair about people being stuck in the house because others refuse to show a little compassion. I mean, it could be my child.

Every day, I am reminded of just how little I know or have even considered. And that’s a good thing. Shaquea loves the kids!

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