Restaurant Tips

Restaurant Do’s and Don’ts for special needs

Taking your special needs child out to a restaurant or sit-down place to eat can be an overwhelming experience for you and your child the first time you do it. I’m just going to tell you that it gets easier with time and after reading some of these tips you will know what to ask for, where to sit and how to control the situation.

Enjoy Your Time Out

  

First, never be ashamed of your situation or circumstances for you, your family or your child (children). There is no reason you shouldn’t be able to enjoy your time out with your family. Nor do you need to hide in the corner to protect others.

Mind Your Manners

  

  • Following good manners will tell parents that screaming children, babies and such should be seated in the back of the restaurant away from other guests. Some places will see the disability and automatically assume this is the situation, and seat you and your family like that. If your children are well behaved and you know they won’t disturb the other guests, don’t be afraid to speak up. (I can understand the first time when you don’t know how your child is going to behave, and this happened whether your child has special needs or not. Unfortunately, we had a bad experience with a restaurant one time where we were seated clear across the other side of the restaurant, where nobody was assigned the table, and nobody was seated anywhere near us. Needless to say, the service was horrible a result as nobody ever walked by to check on us.


  • Respect goes both ways. While we want respect for our children and focus solely on them at times, we need to understand that there are others around us that want to enjoy their meals as well. Not that you should hide your child, but rather be considerate of others as you want them to be of you.

Musical Chairs

  

Many restaurants have booths with few tables available. Never be seated at a booth if you have a child with a wheelchair, its not safe. For one they are out in the aisle and not all the waiters know they are there. Not only could they trip, but they could also drop food on your child. Be seated at a table where a chair can be removed whenever possible. Many restaurants are doing half-booths where the other side has chairs instead.

Tipping Your Server

Tip accordingly and that is your prerogative. We tend to over-tip especially when they acknowledge our daughter and try to support her needs as well as our own. When she shares our food, she tends to get messy.  Average tip is 15% which is etiquette, but you want to give more for great service.

Keep Them Entertained

Bring an iPad or similar device to keep your child busy. For us this was a life-saver, or we would never go out. We have some of her favorite shows loaded into it and she watches it while we eat.  Get some ribbons for those who have trouble keeping their hands still, it keeps them busy for hours.