10 Ways to Make Eating Out Possible/Enjoyable
From March-April 2012 Issue of Autism Bay Area Magazine
- Pick a restaurant where the menu offers something your child can eat.
- Ask for a booth, or wait for one to clear up – comfortable, enclosed seating makes your child less fidgety.
- Bring along pictures of the food choices you are going to offer. Ask your child to choose an item by pointing to it on the menu, saying the name, and then pairing it with a picture. The added visual cue helps children process the choices better (even kids who can read will benefit).
- Keep his mind and hands busy while waiting for the order. Bring along portable toys/books/devices for the wait time. Some iPad apps are very popular and easy to carry along. Don’t bring along stim toys as these can get the child too excited.
- Once the food arrives, let your child eat as independently as possible (practicing independent eating regularly at home helps). Don’t nag your child to finish his food. Don’t ‘get him to eat’, instead, ‘let him eat’.
- Don’t over focus on your child’s needs. Try to keep up a conversation with the other members of the family, while you keep an eye on your special needs child.
- Check in with your special needs child periodically. Make comments like, “That looks yummy!”, “Looks like you love the pasta!”, or “Hmm. Looks like that’s not your favorite soup.”
- Refrain from asking questions or testing your child. (What color is the ice cream? Is it cold or hot? Which soup is this? What vegetable is that?) This is supposed to be an enjoyable family outing.
- When it’s time to leave, help your child clean up – any dropped silverware on the floor can be put back on the table. Any excessive mess can be wiped down. All used napkins need to be put back on the plate.
10. As you walk out, smile and find something to praise your child for. (“I like the way you waited for your food today!”)
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