So, one of the classic signs of autism is the inability to innately understand that others have different opinions on things than they do. Once an autistic person learns of this reality, they still do not think that is ok. They honestly think that the other person is wrong, or is just trying to make their life uncomfortable. They really don’t understand how others can want to think about or do something other than what they like.
With that in mind, we come to the always exciting, but contentious question (though it should not be, but is because of autism in the house), where should we go out to eat?
When my son was preschool age, we always went to a place he liked. When he was a little older, we tried other restaurants that we knew would have something that he would hopefully eat. I say, hopefully, because any mother of a child with ASD, and many mothers of little kids, in general, know that all hamburgers and pizzas are not created exactly alike. So to the child, they are not the same food. Therefore, liking McDonald’s hamburger, does not guarantee liking Perkin’s hamburger, and so on.
We still choose restaurants that we know have something he will at least try, and he has gotten quite good at eating any hamburger, and almost any pizza without fussing. I am very proud of him, as that is a big step. Unfortunately for him, because he is learning to accept tiny variations in food, we have been starting to go to restaurants that are favorites of other family members, but do not have the requisite pizza or hamburger.
For instance, my daughter loves KFC. My husband and I also enjoy it. We have been to KFC before, but we try to avoid it because it brings A LOT of complaining from our son. He loves Scwhan’s chicken fries. Those are his favorite food at home. However, KFC chicken fingers are nothing like the Schwan’s. I find both to be quite tasty.
There is a KFC near the children’s school, so a week ago we went there for dinner before the school art fair. We live 20 miles from the school, so to go home for supper would not have left time to eat. Sometimes I pack a supper to eat before school functions. But I had promised my daughter that we could go to KFC, since we had been to my son’s favorite restaurant numerous times already.
As those of you with ASD kids can well imagine, we had a rather miserable dinner at KFC. Oh, the food was great, the service was wonderful, even the booth was comfortable and the restaurant clean and inviting. But my son would not stop fussing. We did get him to eat all of his dinner (two chicken strips and corn on the cob, washed down with some pop), but the whining, complaining, mouthing off, was incessant.
In previous years my husband and I would have decided that going to KFC should not happen again. We would tell our daughter that maybe mom could bring some home for her while Mark had something else, but we would not go to KFC as a family. Well, my son has truly been growing in at least his knowledge that others don’t always like what he likes. And he is starting to feel a little less threatened by that fact, though he still doesn’t exactly embrace it. He probably never will feel totally comfortable with it. I know, as an Aspie, I still find that truth to be innately uncomfortable at times, even though my experience has taught me that it is no big deal, and can even make life more fun.
We told my son that until he can learn to go to someone else’s favorite restaurant without complaining, we are not going to take him to his favorite. Because of all of his fussing at KFC, he was banned from his favorite, Wendy’s, for a week. We would have never even dreamed of trying something like this a year ago, but since we have seen some little hints of developmental readiness, we thought we would give it a try.
Yesterday there was another function at school that required us to stay close for dinner. Again we went to KFC. My son made an initial complaint, but then settled in quite nicely. He wasn’t exactly enjoying the experience, taking some reminding to take a bite of chicken or corn in between tales of the Lego sets he wanted to save his allowance to buy. But overall, he did very well. I didn’t leave the restaurant vowing to never take him there again!
I really hadn’t thought that he would behave so nicely. I figured it would take quite a few visits to other restaurants before he would earn the privelege of going back to one that he likes. I guess he was developmentally ready to take on the challenge, and the promise of being able to go back to his favorite restaurant after he behaved at someone else’s was a big motivator.
So next Tuesday we are going to Wendy’s for supper before yet another school function. Welcome to the end of the school year!