3 Ways to Confidently Take Your Autistic Child Out To Eat
Dinnertime can be a difficult time for autistic children. They might not want to go out to eat, and they can get overwhelmed by all the different smells, noises, sights and textures around them.
Knowing how to have an enjoyable meal in this situation takes some practice and preparation, but it’s well worth it!
Here are 3 ways to confidently take your autistic child out to eat:
1. Create a List of Restaurant Options
Create a list of restaurant options that offer autistic-friendly dining. Consider a restaurant that is quiet without many distracting features so as not to overstimulate your child.
Think about the lights, sounds, and smells your child will encounter and pick a place that is calming to your child. Maybe this place offers your child’s favorite food or incorporates one of their special interests.
Choose a place that offers the ability to order and pay at the same time so that you are not finding yourself waiting for a check and/or service and that you are able to leave on your own terms.
2. Make a Plan
- Where will you sit?
- What time of day will you go?
- What foods are available for your child to order?
- Can you present your child with the menu ahead of time?
- Is it appropriate for your child to bring a special toy or comforting item?
Being able to answer these questions will help to address an anxiety that you or your child may encounter BEFORE it occurs.
3. Prepare Your Child
Consider practicing necessary skills ahead of time such as:
- Table manners
- Eating pace
- Sitting in a chair
- Social skills
Use social stories to outline what your child can expect and your expectations for your time at the restaurant. If needed, create and use visual supports such as visual schedule or checklist.