So two friends went out for a meal last night with two teenaged boys with special needs, Joshua and his classmate. We asked in the restaurant for a table for four and were offered prime position in the window or a table in the back, ‘which would be quieter’. We pondered for a second and then opted for the seats in the window, where we could watch the world go by and we would also be in the hub of all that was going on. We ordered our drinks and considered the menu.
While we awaited our shared starter, Joshua refused to sit down, but hovered under the speakers listening to the music and observing the other diners. We were served by two waitresses who engaged with both boys and looked after us well. They joked when the request was signed for a large pizza – they joined in, stating that chef would create the largest pizza that would fit in the oven, which amused and satisfied our companion.
All four of us shared an enormous plate of nachos for starter, which worked well – Joshua thought he was eating crisps I think – but we easily polished off the tasty finger food which suited us all. Joshua returned to his standing position as we awaited our main course, while his classmate taught me signs for milk from various animals – cows, goats and even monkeys – which kept us amused. The ordered gigantic pizza arrived and it was half-eaten in a matter of moments, while Joshua more slowly picked at his chicken and chips. Once the pizza was all eaten, Joshua’s leftovers looked tempting too – such is his ravenous appetite.
We ate our fill and managed to leave behind quite a mess – with some food squashed underfoot on the floor and the table was piled high with used serviettes – but the staff took our visit in their stride and bid us goodbye. I have had many experiences in cafes and restaurants where we have not felt welcome, and so it is refreshing to find one where we were more than tolerated. There are guide books for hotels where dogs are welcome, but I have never seen one for places to eat, where children/young adults with special needs will be welcomed. Perhaps I could start one, with reviews based our own experiences, as it is so much more relaxing to eat somewhere that staff understand and do more than simply tolerate differences, but they actually embrace their different behaviour and view of the world and accommodate it.