From Dream To REALITY
B.C. and D.C. are now beautifully coined “Before Child” and “During Child”. Before child was filled with spontaneous dining out during the week with out a forethought of high chairs, snacks, sippy cups, and wipes. It is easy to believe that in my wanting to be a mother, I did not enjoy that B.C period enough. Note to self: the BFF was right on.
But here is the thing, while I am thinking of my own D.C. experience, I am thinking about the many families of children with special needs and the list of things to bring or the longing for a quiet, nice, easy, relaxing evening at a restaurant…where YOU (parent) are being asked “How can I help you?” and someone bringing you a meal.
Here are some tips that I now employ, that you may find helpful:
1. Bring a hungry child to a restaurant. This applies even if your child has food specifics, picky eating, etc. Pack what they like. Don’t make the restaurant the place we want to try asparagus. Pack their snacks. Pack their favorite foods. Bring them hungry, timing the restaurant outing around meal time.
2. Focus on your focus. There are some many things to focus on during meal time besides eating. Talking, Looking, People Watching. This applies even if your child is nonverbal. Sitting and Staying for the duration of the meal (of others) is a real goal and life skill.
3. Walk behind the waitstaff and immediately scope out what is in arms reach. MOVE the ketchup, sugar packages, knife, and fork.
4. Immediately place some of the reinforcers (snacks and favorite foods) next to you, within your child’s visual field.
5. Bring help. Yes. Bring the babysitter, nanny, cousin. This is especially if you want a family meal and want to be served as well.
6. Pack small toys that are only used for these outings. Here are my new goodies. I keep these toys in my bag so they are not part of the usual stash.
Octonauts (my son’s favorite TV Show)
Magnetic Blocks (http://www.tegu.com/)
Puzzled Blocks 4 in 1 (http://www.treehoppertoys.com)
I made this list without suggesting technology! But guess what, it is my secret #7 and YouTube is my secret weapon. Don’t judge us .
Grownups often want to dine in a REAL restaurant and the benefits of exposing children are endless. Crying is okay. Fussing is permitted. Keep going out, your family needs to see its community and the community needs to see you out there more often.
Let’s THRIVE together!
~Landria Green, MA., CCC-SLP