I saw today where the “Topic of the Week” on the Autism Speaks blog is eating out with a child with autism. One mother wrote of how her child going on school outings helped to craft the behavior of her child in a very positive way, one that surprised her when their family went out to eat. While Amber and I have taken a different path in approaching eating out with Kaitlyn, any positive step is a big one.
Kaitlyn really has really always been a well-behaved child out in public. She has always been shy around strangers, and that is not necessarily a bad thing in my book. For the most part, she maintains her manners and discipline like she should. When a meltdown happens, it is almost always a major one, and is probably less associated with her being a kid than her with Asperger’s…we have quickly learned how to tell the difference.
One public activity has always been an adventure, however. And that is eating out. Kaitlyn will rarely, if ever, throw her food; she will make quite the mess on the table and the floor, but that is to be expected. She has significant trouble staying in her seat, insisting on climbing under the table to the other side any time we are seated in a booth…she is pretty restless most of the time, and really lacks the patience to wait for her food. The adventure of eating out with Kaitlyn is more than all of that though. She has moved past the most peculiar part of her eating out routine (or maybe she has just evolved a little) where she would immediately head straight for the container that holds the sweeteners. Kaitlyn early on took a liking to eating the sweeteners, but unlike most kids (all kids?), she did not bother taking the time to open the package and pour…she would just eat the sweetener and the package. It got to the point where one of us would have to rush to the booth and hide the container before she got there; come to think of it, maybe that is when she started going from one side to the other…in search of her sweetener. One time at a local Mexican restaurant, she insisted on trying one of the sauces on the table (the green one) and quickly learned that her choice was the hottest one on the table; is this instance, her love of sweetener help reduce the heat. A cup of liquid with ice and no lid does not stand a chance when in Kaitlyn’s reach. It is a safe bet that she will have a handful of ice before too long, and that the table will be covered in water.
Looking at our experiences with Kaitlyn and eating out, I guess maybe we have been blessed. We do not have too many horror stories to share, just some minor things. We are, after all, the proud parents of one of the few kids her age that will opt for ordering a salad when given the choice.