Going out to eat can be challenging with kids, especially for families with children on the autism spectrum. If you have interest in tackling the restaurant scene as a family, it’s best to take some time to plan ahead in an attempt to make the outing as successful and enjoyable as possible for all family members involved. When picking a place to eat, there are several things to consider. What time will you be going? Can you make reservations? If not, how long will the wait be? It’s also a good idea to consider the restaurant’s ambience; such as, the lighting, décor, and volume of music. It’s possible that some restaurants may be over-stimulating for some children.
- When eating out, try a place that isn’t too busy. If you are able to go when a restaurant first opens, try that. You can also make reservations to avoid long wait times. Making a child wait for an extended period of time, may result in unwanted behaviors.
- Looking at the menu, online, beforehand can help as well. This will help you become familiar with the food and beverage options available and limit wait times at the table. It also helps to browse the menu beforehand if your child is a picky eater or has dietary restrictions that way you’re aware of preferred and acceptable options available.
- Bringing preferred toys, books, and snacks can also be helpful. These items will help keep your child occupied and the preferred snacks can be treated as “appetizers.” If your child is a selective or picky eater and may not like the preparation of the restaurant food served, consider packing a preferred meal to bring with you and serve as a replacement, in the event food refusal occurs.
- And don’t forget to catch your child being good! In the presence of acceptable behavior, praise your child (i.e., deliver some form of preferred attention) to acknowledge their appropriate behavior in the hopes of that behavior repeating throughout the outing.
Wishing you an enjoyable family outing!
*This information is provided for informational and educational purposes only and should not be used to replace consultation with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional.