Dining out

One of the reasons we never go to a real bona-fide sit-down restaurant is because of Hope’s many food allergies (nuts, eggs, wheat, dairy, soy). Just too hard, just too risky.

The other reason is, well, Rhema. Dining out would require waiting, sitting down, sitting still, not trying to scoop the ice out of someone’s drink, not trying to eat the shredded cheese off their salads, keeping the funny noises to a low volume, and did I say, waiting?

But over the past year, Rhema’s teachers have taken her on community outings. They’ve hit the mall, the grocery store, and even restaurants.

So this past week I was feeling dare-devilish when I proposed to the husband that we, imagine it!, go out to dinner as a family.

And the Red Sox won.

And when the Red Sox win, kids eat free at our restaurant of choice.

So if we had to high-tail it out of there, I reasoned, because Rhema stripped on the table or Hope went into anaphylactic shock, well at least we wouldn’t have to pay for their dinners.

So we put on open minds and smiles, held our breath, and bravely dared to go where we’d never gone before.

French fries are usually fried in the same fryer as other foods containing gluten, so we asked the restaurant to bake rather than fry Hope’s fries. They also boiled a hot dog separately for her, bun not included, and gave her a side of mandarin oranges.


Because Rhema has a tendency to eat crayons like candy, we don’t have them in the house. So she was overjoyed to find crayons at the restaurant and colored a kids menu so feverishly that tiny pieces of crayon flew everywhere. She also had her own cup full of ice that kept her occupied until she started trying to color all the ice cubes.

She was perfect! She ate her food, even though it was somewhat new and different. She acted like she’d been dining out for ages. (Thank you, Rhema’s teachers!)

And Hope’s face didn’t blow up or anything. She was able to safely eat everything she was given.

I was so happy, so proud, so thankful.

Such a simple thing.

Yet it’s something I have wanted to do as a family for years…

We let Rhema have ice cream. No spoon needed.


This journey we’re on… sometimes it is so hard and the challenges just seem insurmountable. But it’s days and moments like these where God blesses in such a specific way and I think, I know… we can do this. 

We are doing this.

We’re getting better.

All of us.


So look out eating establishments of America! We’re all brave and encouraged now. We’re actually thinking about trying to do this again.

Next time the Sox win, of course.


48 thoughts on “Dining out

  1. Hurrah! I’m so very happy for you and your family.

    Taking G.T. out to eat is always a challenge for me too. He is a food swiper (from unsuspecting patrons) and noise maker and waiting is oh so very hard for him. When we eat at a fast food place he always choses to seat us with a handsome young man. Never falls….well unless there’s not one available that day. LOL The first couple times I was really embarrased, but now I have my comeback line all prepared and ready to use.

  2. Yay! Dining out is one of Pudding’s favourite things to do, so we’re pretty adept at this now. I don’t have to look at the menu any more, and know exactly what we can pick that is safe. Another random non-transferable skill!

  3. This put a huge smile on my face. I’m so happy for all of you!! Sometimes the little things can seem so big. I felt this way on vacation when we made it through mini-golf. Such a little thing, but it was nice to discover something we can do out as a family. Not perfect, but not disastrous. The little things DO matter…

  4. Yay! We had a similar experience this weekend- we were invited out to a buffet-style restaurant with my grandparents and some other family members. It’s so scary walking in there not knowing what’s going to happen, but a great feeling when the kids do well. Hope the Red Sox win again soon so you can try it again! 🙂

  5. Well, now I know why the Red Sox are winning…it’s all for you!
    This is huge. So huge. And I’m so happy that you got to go out as a family and you took such beautiful pictures. Pure happiness.
    just another reason to root root root for the home team. yay!

  6. Wonderful! I’m so glad you were able to find a place to eat that was safe for Hope, that is huge. Even better that the whole experience was great for Rhema too! (We have not eaten out as a family since Parker was a newborn. Well, except for McDonald’s drive thru and we’ve dined in a time or two)

  7. “So look out eating establishments of America! We’re all brave and encouraged now.”

    I love it!! So proud of y’all!!

  8. Congrats on a successful outing! We’ve been lucky that my son is usually better behaved when we’re out than at home, but after one massive meltdown at Chevy’s it took us months to try again. I stressed about it, but once we went it was just fine. Enjoyable, even!

  9. This put a smile on my face (and a couple of tears in my eyes, too, I confess) and in my heart. It’s so great when we get to experience those things which so many people take for granted, isn’t it? Overjoyed that the Sox won and you hd such a successful outing! I’m not a baseball fan, but I’ll be praying for more Sox victories!

  10. Wow, this could have been a story about MY daughter, Emily. She too is an ice eater ( PICA ) due to low iron levels in her blood. She is also a stripper (sensory issues) and a food stealer.. 🙂 She has a hard time sitting still, but is doing much better as she has gotten a little older. She’s almost 6 now. You’re so right, it’s these little things that most people take for granted that help us to feel more like a typical family. Good for you and your dedication to your girls. Us moms have to stick together! Blessings. 🙂

  11. Thank God for all the wonderful teachers so willing to work hard with these students with special needs. This is such a Blessing and such hope for these children

  12. Congrats on a success at dining out, as a single mother of 4, 3 with special needs dining out has always been a challenge, at first I would feel uncomfortable when my children made the noises tried taking the other peoples food , now I just smile and continue to redirect them and for the most part it works, Although there will always be people who give nasty looks or don’t understand, don’t give up simply do what my oldest daughter does, she smiles at the offending person or persons and says one of 3 things…1. she gives them a sympathetic look and asks very politely..”haven’t you ever seen a happy child before?” 2. She shakes her head sadly and says to me loud enough for them to hear that she hates having to deal with ignorant people when we are trying to have a nice FAMILY dinner, and 3. she smiles politely and says to the offending person , perhaps if happy children bother you next time you dine out you should choose a less kid friendly establishment. Some may consider this rude or calling unneeded attention to the situation …me..I call it simply standing up for the rights of her siblings and she makes me very proud!

  13. great job seriously!
    my lil guy is 4… we have had very lil success with bringing him out, it always makes me feel bad that we have to do ‘take in’ however its so very hard to find a place that is autistic friendly..
    He is constantly on the move, and eating things he shouldn’t (loved your crayon addition), we still cannot keep crayon’s in the house, or chalk for that matter!
    this year was out 1st outing that we were able to sit as a family and not be scared of dirty comments from older peoples or funny looks from the others.
    Is there anything a mom can do that I should know of?
    I feel like i have tried everything I possibly can!!!

  14. I sit here crying as I read this – because I have been in your shoes and its only been this year that I have been able to make it though a whole dinner -(thank you ipad). Here’s to many more dinners for you and your family! 🙂

  15. This made me smile. I have an autistic son, whom for the1st few years would go anywhere to eat, Then suddenly we started getting the meltdown. (before being positively diagnosed) Chucky Cheese, no way horrible, Max and Erma’s horrible, Red Robin no way! But the sad thing is he appologized as I left with him and the rest ofthe family stayed behind. I am so sorry mom. !st real tears for me. However we talk about restaurants days before hand and try to talk about something to look at or do there. Sometimes he says okay and all is well, but if he tells you “no” then I will NOT take him there. I usually ask him where he would like to go and we have several places now from the family restaurants, buffets and regular sit down restaurants. It works well for us. He is so much better after we talk about things, the only issue now is I am a slow eater so we have to get used to me ordering immediatly and have it brought out and the rest of the family starts with appetizers that are his faves. When he is finished he is ready to go. Congrats on your big hurdle!!!

  16. I love your story. I think it’s important that we don’t avoid certain ventures simply because we are afraid of what might happen. My son(4 yrs old) has meltdowns at stores a lot but I don’t let it get to me because onlookers have no idea that he’s special and it’s also none of their business. And I will never see those people again. If anyone comments rudely, I usually reciprocate likewise(treat others how you want to be treated so I assume they want to be treated rudely.) We just had our first family vacation and it was challenging at times but we also created many great memories. It just takes some planning. We learned that Ian likes be helpful so when he he is grabbing things off shelves at the grocery store he thinks it’s because we need those items and he is helping. We now let him have his own cart and talk about what we might want to eat, like fruit, and let him choose which fruit and he puts it his cart. On our trip we packed his own pillows and blankets, a few toys, books and videos so he would have familiar things to help him be comfortable. I also made sure he some scheduled free play and our hotel was near a park so he would be less stressed.
    Sometimes you just have to teach yourself to see the world in your child’s eyes, understand the “why” (my grocery store example) and it’s easier to know how to help them.

  17. I had to chuckle! Our 8 yr. old granddaughter is Autistic and I couldn’t have said it better myself:D Dining out is something we do…….but at certain places. Must be a booth where we can coral her and she can’t be walking around taking food off of other tables. When she is hungry, forks and spoons are too slow for her. She is the light of our life….but we do have 11 other grandchildren. We love them all, but she is the most fun to be with because we never know how she is going to react. She is taking horseback riding lessons and the therapy is magnificent. You might want to try it…..so much fun!

  18. This sounds like our family. Except until recently our child with ASD was also the one with the most/most serious food allergies.

    I am so glad you all made it through the experience, and I hope it gives you courage to try again some time. I find that, most of the time, dining out is fun now that we’ve got a few places we feel are food-safe to go.

  19. I too have tears in my eyes. When my son was in kindergarten the school wanted to know what skill I wanted thenm to help us work on……I said eating at a restaurant. They looked at me like I had two heads.

    Glad you and your family were able to make it through an entire meal successfully!

    It has gotten easier as my son gets older. But we still have to plan ahead and have coping strategies.

  20. Thank you for this encouragement. We are struggling with the same things with our sone Nathan, and feel like we can not go anywhere. So thank you for the hope that things get better with the help of teachers and family and love of course.

  21. so very happy for you…both of my children have autism and my son has epilepsy too..i take them out to eat and to a movie from time to time..we have the same behaviors so reading your story was like someone else talking about my children..lol

  22. Hello! So glad to read of others who deal with the ordeal of eating out. We tend to go fairly frequently but have had to leave many times due to a meltdown because we were in the wrong restaurant or couldn’t sit at a specific table, or we had to wait too long. I have found, lately, that taking along my iPod Touch w/ some kiddo-friendly games and even some ASD-centered games (all free apps!) helps tremendously with waiting. We also have a Fisher Price iXL which is kind of like a kiddo’s iPod and serves the same function. That has really cut down on drama with waiting. Congratulations on a successful family outing…I hope there’s many more to come! Happy Eating! 🙂

  23. That is great to hear. Our oldest son TJ is low on the scale, but sometimes we do have trouble with him in public places, but it is getting better. When we take him and his brother out, we try to sit one on either side of the table that way they can’t fight or start anything, but even then it can be hard to keep TJ from acting up. But like I said, he is getting better as he gets older, and seems to be handling things a lot better. Thursday he graduated from Kindergarten, and is moving onto the 1st grade. At the start of the year we didn’t know if he would make it, but thank God for miracles, and wonderful people.

  24. COngratulations, only another family with similiar circumstances can understand what a huge accomplishment this is!! We too have just begun to make attempts out at 8 1/2 years old.

  25. So awesome! I haven’t gone to a restaurant with my kids in a VERY long time. Most of their issues are sensory related (noise, bright lights) and then of course, they’re suck picky eaters too. I applaud you for taking the leap and having it all work out in your favor!

  26. Sounds like an awesome night out! Be careful with the french fries!!! So many of them are dusted with wheat flour before they are frozen. I never, ever eat fries anymore (unless from In’n Out Burger) when dining out.

  27. re-posting a message from Jennifer Walsh, someone who cares enough to make a difference. if anyone wants to send ideas along to her, please feel free to post them here. thanks!


    I came across your posting DINING OUT, and it peaked my interest because my husband is a restaurant manager. Because of his job, my family has been blessed with eating out regularly, albeit, always at the same place, but realized how I had taken it for granted….I’m too tired to cook, let’s call Dad and tell him we’re coming in.
    Not only did I take it for granted the leisure at which I could make that last minute decision, but I was also missing what a joy it can be to eat in a restaurant and enjoy a meal as a family…
    I then scrolled down your blog and read all the replies and it made me upset to see that the dining out experience was missing something for so many. In a day and age where menus are revamped for calorie counters, low fat options, vegan, etc. why are we missing the boat in other areas? A dining experience is so much more than just the food, and the establishments should want to make that happen. Sure, most will try and accommodate allergies, bit I want to see who will step up and go the extra mile to make a truly FAMILY FRIENDLY atmosphere.
    I am moved to to the point of tears here, and I want to help. Please if you and your readers can send me ideas on what would make dining out more stress free and enjoyable for you, I would love it! Give me a a best case, all wishes granted list so I can get an idea and maybe work with some casual dining chains.

    I look forward to hearing from you!

  28. so wonderful. our dinners out either end in relief that we survived a meal or with me sitting in the car with liam while the rest of the family finishes eating. i’m always so thankful when we actually sit through an entire meal.

  29. I always get a smile when I hear such progress in others. Being a mom of a special needs child is not easy,but it is so worth while when they show such great responses!!! I found that in certain circumstances “going for it” is all we can do, with a lot of prayer of course and just go with it. Great that you had what to us is sometimes impossible “a victory”. Here is to many more!!! ;)!

  30. I am a teacher of special needs children and had two children much the same as your girls. They are almost all are grown up now. I remember all the trials and tribulations of taking them out. It is nice to reach the milestone of being able to do that. Remember they have just as much right to be in the world as anyone else. Never let anyone treat you as a second class citizen. The school we are in is already closed and we still have another week of school and extra school year summer school for a month. The school personnel tried to tell my assistant she couldn’t use the copier for less than 25 copies and they started construction without taking into account that we are still teaching summer school. Discrimination is rampant but I don’t let the pecking order get to me. I treat them to my top hen status and let them know I and my students are special and we will be using the facilities whether it messes with the system or not. They will have to deal with the change. Get over it people and recognize how grateful you should be that you don’t face the challenges my students face everyday.

  31. Pingback: Es-ca-pades « Autism In a Word

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