Restaurant Etiquette For The Special Needs (Or Any) Mom

I recently read an article about a restaurant owner who yelled at a toddler to be quiet.

A day after the story broke, we took Samuel for a drive hoping he’d be soothed by the ride. He was fussy and we’ve found a car ride can help. While we were out, we decided to grab a bite to eat.

After being seated by a window at Olive Garden, Samuel was making a whining noise. You know the kind of sound I mean. It grates on a parents last nerve.

I look at my husband. His eyebrows arch. “You know you’re going to have to give him one.”

I nod and reach for his favorite cereal. I set the bag on the table and pull out a cereal in the shape of an O and show it to Samuel.

“What do you say?”

Samuel smiles. “Papa Mama.”

I pass him his treat as he grabs it with gusto. That should work, even if just for a little while.

Don't Leave Home Without It
Don’t Leave Home Without It

I was wrong.

The soup and salad arrive just as Samuel demands another morsel. I repeat the process and give in to his wish. About half way through lunch, with Samuel making his desires known (very loudly), I remember the story of the restaurant owner yelling at the toddler.

I look around the restaurant. No managers or waitresses in sight. There is a table next to us but they don’t seem to be bothered. The other tables are empty. Whew, no complaints.

After our meal, I confess my worry about Samuel’s conduct to the waitress. The black haired waitress nods. “He was fine. You should have heard the child that was in here earlier.” She waves a hand in the air. “You guys were great. Come back anytime.”

We pay the bill and leave, relieved Samuel’s antics weren’t distracting to others.

As a special needs mom to a nine year old non-verbal child, I can’t reason with Samuel why he should be quiet in a restaurant. I can’t explain how being loud disturbs others. So we raise our finger to our mouth and shoosh him, hoping that’ll work. Or pull out our hidden stash of cereal to keep him happy.

The Happy Face
The Happy Face

I can’t help to wonder how other moms and special needs moms handle this issue. The waitress told us some parents completely ignore their children and let them scream. Is that what escalated the incident with the owner of the diner?

How do you console your child in restaurant? Do you take him/her outside? Do you get your order to go and leave? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.







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2 Thoughts on Restaurant Etiquette For The Special Needs (Or Any) Mom

  1. Unfortunately, I don’t have any wisdom to bestow. My son is non-verbal, but his suction machine can be pretty loud. I would think that the more exposed he gets to outside stimuli the more he can see how others react to his behavior. I’m so glad that you didn’t have any issues during your outing. But, it did create some anxiety for you and your husband. I notice that the more I”m out with my son (Evan), the less it bothers me when people stare at us when the suction machine goes on and we stick it in his trach.

    Noone knows you and your son’s daily struggles. Anyone who complains about your son is ignorant and doesn’t deserve to be acknowledged.

    God bless you and your son.

    • Thank you for your comments, Francine. It does get easier as you go out more. We do have a favorite restaurant we go to where they know us so it has become a safe place to go and my son loves it. They painted an aquarium on the ceiling that he enjoys looking at plus they have great food. Thanks for sharing. I’m not alone in needing to suction in public. : )


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