Tips for Dining out with a Child with Special needs

Depending on the special needs of your child, dining out with a child with special needs can be a torturous nightmare, or raturous joy. For the self-conscious parents who would rather dine in, a living nightmare is the more applicable description. How do you cope with the situation, other than turning down the invitation? Without doubt, people will notice your child more than they do you although you know that you will not be spared the side glances.

1. Inform your host.

If you are out on an invitation, chances are that your host already knows you have a child with special needs. Way in advance, inform your host or the restaurant of any special accommodation for your child such as a table nearer the exit or the restrooms.

2. Prepare your child.

Let your child know what to expect. If he feels he is not ready for the experience, you may decide to leave him with a trusted relative who does not mind having him for a few hours. Talk to him about the experience. Where possible, let him watch a video on what happens when people dine out, and answer his questions truthfully and tactfully.

3. Choose a quiet corner.

Depending on the needs of your child, you may decide to go to an inconspicuous corner, and get your child to face the wall, rather than facing the crowd in the restaurant. A less busy or informal restaurant may be a good place to start bringing your child to. Bringing him to a restaurant who accommodates your child’s needs is the next best option.

4. Keep close to routines.

Let your child do as he would at home, and in a quiet manner, so that he will know that he is not having an unusual experience. Bring his usual cutlery and cup, let him do what he will usually do. On the other hand, do at home what you would do outside the home. 

5. Bring your child’s faourite toy.

Chances are that your child will not stay in his seat throughout the meal, so bring something that will keep your child busy and focused on rather than what goes on around him.

6. Ignore the stares.

Your child matters more than others around you, so forget that the people will stare or look. Keep your focus on your child. Enjoy your time together.