Joshua really made us laugh yesterday when we went out for a pub lunch. He used to be a nightmare when eating out but lately, he has started to enjoy the experience and behave better, so long as there is not too much waiting around, as he has inherited both of his parents’ impatience.
We sat at a table in the corner, far away from other customers, and quickly made our selections : Lasagne for Joshua, steak pie for his Dad and I chose a ploughmans lunch of bread, cheese and pickles. It came quickly and looked delicious. Joshua eagerly devoured his lasagne and chips and drank plenty of orange juice with it. I picked at my ploughmans in between feeding Joshua, so I still had quite a lot on my plate when he had finished.
My meal came with half an apple, a delicious touch as I love apple with cheese. I gave a quarter of the apple to my husband and started to de-core my quarter. Joshua watched me intently and then he leaned across the table and snatched my husband’s piece of apple back, handing it to me. He made it very clear that Daddy was not having any, but that if I was sharing my apple with anyone, it was to be with him! He proceeded to eat and chew 90% of the apple and was helping himself to cut pieces.
We both really enjoyed his determination, his clear expression of what he did and did not want to happen and the fact that he was enjoying apples again. He used to eat apple a lot – it was a running joke that lunch at Granny’s house always entailed a bowl of soup followed by an apple! But he stopped eating them, presumably when his teeth began to hurt, so this was a clear sign also that last week’s dentistry, traumatic as it was, had been worthwhile. He clearly felt confident to chew and crunch apple again and maybe had been longing to do so for years, and that is why, now that he could, there was ‘no way’ – one of his favourite phrases – that he was letting Dad take his treat off him as he must have been eying up my plate throughout the meal.
Four weeks ago, I reviewed a local restaurant for how well they welcomed a party including two teenaged boys with special needs, well our same foursome ate out again last night, straight from school. We went to an italian restaurant that we had been turned away from in the past as it was too busy, but there were plenty of empty tables this time. Our visit did not start well as, in his enthusiasm to open the door to get in, Joshua’s classmate stumbled over the step and launched himself into the restaurant .Then as I sat Joshua in his chair at the table, he realised how slippery it was and he scooted backwards across the floor into the centre of the restaurant! I retrieved his wheelchair from the car so that he could be strapped in , with the brakes on! So we made quite an entrance and the staff semed slightly wary of this odd group of diners who must have looked like we were going to be troublesome.
But as the evening wore on, they responded well to our boys’ enthusiasm and looked after us very well. They played along with the signed request for a very very very big pizza and delivered one that hung over the sides of the plate. They provided an endless supply of serviettes to clean the messy eater up with as his hands, face, hair and clothes were covered in tomato juice. Joshua loved the enetertainment of his classmate, they amuse each other and he joined in and ate well. The waiting staff were watching us and were attentive but not overly fussy, which is the perfect response in my experience.They were on hand when needed but otherwise they stood well back.
The restaurant was filling up with Friday night diners as we were leaving, so our timing was good as we virtually had the place and staff to oursleves at first. The Maitre D held the doors open to allow me to get the wheelchair out more easily and he told my friend and me that he ‘really liked’ us and that it was the least he could do! I imagine that we all won him round after his initial trepidations about this unusual looking party. He could see that our boys had enjoyed their evening out and their italian food and hopefully that we, as their carers, had enjoyed the meal too, while keeping our unpredictable charges under some kind of control. So this restaurant too wins my seal of approval.
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.