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Eating Out with a Child that Has Autism: Overstimulation and Not Wanting to Sit

In our next effort to help make eating out with your child that has autism as stress-free as possible we are going to talk about how to handle over stimulating environments.

 

Being a parent of a child with autism you know firsthand what smells, sights, sounds and movements do to your child. If you don’t want to avoid eating out altogether (and you don’t have to) there are steps you can take to help minimize the worst of any sensory issues your child may have.

  1. Go at a quiet time of the day and ask to be seated away from other tables, particularly those with large parties or groups.
  2. Ask to not be seated next to the kitchen, bathrooms or main entrance to help minimize the number of people that are walking by your table.
  3. Sit in the corner; this will make it so that there are only two walls that are open to sound.
  4. At the table, have your child sit where he/she will  be least disturbed, this can be with his back to other people in the restaurant or the other side of the table where there will be less contact with the people walking around.
  5. If possible, ask for a booth instead of a table, this will help provide a more contained environment for your child.
  6. Ask your server to give you a heads up if there will be any singing for a birthday at a table close by so that you can take your child outside for a few moments while they sing.
  7. Should your child get overstimulated take your child outside and let him/her walk around for a few moments or go sit in the car so that they can calm down.
  8. Try to keep your child occupied/distracted while at dinner. Bring pen and paper, iPad, smartphone with games on it.

Your Child Doesn’t Want to Stay Seated

Sometimes it is hard to say what causes the most stress when eating out with a child that has autism. Is it the reactions to the stimulus around them… or trying to keep them seated during the meal.

Two quick tips:

  1. Ask to be seated in a booth if at all possible. This will help with containment because your child can be seated next to you or their other parent and the wall. Keep in mind that some places use the back of their booths as display areas or planters, and this could be hazardous.
  2. If you have to be seated at a table with chairs have your child sit in the chair furthest from other patrons or make sure they are sitting between two people in your party.
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