Dara Berger: Author, How to Prevent Autism from Skyhorse Publishing on Imus In the Morning

Autism Sits Down to Separate Dining Hours Via Autism Eats

Mad men dinnerThanks to our Adriana Gamondes for sharing this link to an Autism Society  Lehigh Valley (PA) event called Autism Eats.  There is an org called Autism Eats - not sure if this is part of their work.  From the AE website: Autism Eats provides autism-friendly non-judgmental environments for family dining, socializing and connecting with others who share similar joys and challenges.

At a time when the neurodiversity community is trying to tell us to "just accept autism" or that autism is simply a neuro-difference, programs have popped up around the nation that while good intentioned, basically ghetto'ize and segregate people with autism and their families.  What do you think of separate seatings at a restaurant for those of us with kids with autism?

Sure, a night out without dirty looks, guzzling a glass of wine or beer like a desert wanderer, eating an entire meal on the plate and not out of the box hours later at home sounds good. Reaaaallllly good. I love when I can take my girls places where we "fit in." But at what cost? If autism is a gift, a difference, not a problem to be solved or a diagnosis to be healed or God forbid cured, how are we to feel about being segregated in this way?  We can go to Sesame Place - on autism day.  We can even go to Broadway! For the autism lights up matinee. Is this sustainable living? Is it a Bandaid? If so, I'll take the Bandaid. To a point.  It does bother me that we have to be treated so differently, even though, I know we do - if that makes any sense.  

My girls and I would enjoy a meal together in a restaurant offering autism eats for sure.  But make no bones about it, there is NO OTHER diagnosis that gets this treatment.   Kim

From The Morning Call in PA:

Dinner out at a local restaurant is something many families take for granted.

But eating out is not always easy for those with autistic children. These children can become overwhelmed by the sounds, sights and smells of a new place to eat, and the change in routine.

"Families can feel uncomfortable in that environment," says Karen Williams, vice president of the Autism Society of the Lehigh Valley.

Families with children on the autism spectrum can dine out in an environment that's free of judgment and stress next week. The Autism Society Lehigh Valley will host Pennsylvania's first "Autism Eats" dinner. It runs 6-8 p.m. July 18 at Italiano Delite in Emmaus.


Aimee Doyle

@Gayle -

I so understand where you are...my son is 28, was diagnosed at age 4. Not only have we not seen a cure, there hasn't even been anything new in treatment or therapy for ages. We work with a couple of autism specialists, who've told us that biomedical - and even other kinds of therapies have "flatlined" for over a decade.

We've tried almost every treatment available for autism in the last twenty plus years - the conventional, the alternative, the downright fringe. We've done the medical, the biomedical, the therapeutic, the educational...my son has made progress, but he is still significantly impaired and will need lifetime care and support.

Any thoughts on why the research has ground to a halt?


"Autism is not a gift, but a serious disorder affecting hundreds of thousands of children (and my son who is an adult) that desperately requires identifying both a Cause and Cure." Bob you said it all and why don't we have a cure now after all these years. My son was diagnosed at 4 and he is now 30 and we are still living with the nightmare of autism and desperately waiting for a CURE!

Kyles mom

Never forget that some of these "neurodiversity trolls" may be pharma trolls. They will stoop to anything . Including perusafing people who have many challenges not to attempt to get treatment or help.

Because "science"

The contradictory thoughts make perfect sense because affected individuals are given contradictory treatment.

If it's genetic, then clearly it's not the fault of the child that they behave this way and everyone should accept it, even if the child tries to swing from the chandelier.

If it's a gift, that goes double. No one would bat an eye when an affected child spins around on the tapestry covered banquet bench, drops pants and takes a crap on the white linen table cloth in front of 50 diners.

Somehow those two prepackaged cognitions sold to us through the media via the pharmaceutical industry and culpable regulators-- that it's genetic, just a difference and a gift-- has done nothing to increase acceptance among the public.

Why? Because it's a lie. If the public were forced to accept that children with autism were almost all sacrificed for the "greater good" in the war against disease, there would still be a few assholes who'd continue to bully and disapprove-- just like there are assholes who bully legless veterans who take too long to get on the bus. But bystander would no longer be predictably silent and bullies would get a lot more flak in the press and personally.

Then the "acceptance" intended by these special events would seem to carry more of the balm of actual acceptance instead of just seeming like ghetoization because in a more accepting society, families would have a choice whether to go the full integration route or try the sensory-adjusted special events. Right now it seems the more severely affected are only welcome at the latter. That's not choice, so it's not a balm. It's the blacks only counter at Woolworth's.

cia parker

Many movie theaters have special days when they show movies for the autistic, so they can be noisy and everyone takes it in stride. They used to send home notices of such movies in my daughter's backpack, but we've never gone. She sits quietly in movies; the problem is that she doesn't follow the story lines, so doesn't enjoy the movies. We went to Despicable Me 3, and there are always dramatic stunts which make her laugh, but she slept through most of it. Also slept through most of Jaws, but was appropriately shocked when the mega-shark came bursting out of the water.

I think that for autists who are disruptive, it's a good thing to have autism-friendly events in restaurants and movie theaters. I wish they had had autism-friendly events at the public library when my daughter was little. The age cut-offs were simply not appropriate for our increasingly developmentally-delayed society. She didn't enjoy the picture books at all when she was little, and just kept leaving the room to run down the hall. Later she would have enjoyed the picture books, but was no longer welcome. Also true that parents of typical children feel nervous if they leave their children in a group with unpredictable autistic kids. Probably from now on, libraries will have special story hours with volunteers to act as on-site paras.

Angus Files

When I took him for stem cells we were booked into a marble encased hotel interspersed with mirrors very expensive.
To my horror in the mornning the breakfast room was on the top floor with 3 very long tables one with sushi, one with bread`s and meats, and one with hand mixed fruit cereal teas coffees toast..etc
In the background playing very serene piano music and white table cloths(aargh!) . Well i filled his plate with what I would usually give him . So far all good.He`s sitting there eating a bit, looking around .To the back of me were 3 business men discussing multi million dollar property deals.Then without warning G gives a big huey!!everyone turns round and the waiter service comes up and asks is everything ok --yeah fine I say looking for the quickest way out!! It reminded me of the scene from Mr Bean eating steak tartare -only it wasnt funny .


Mac Donalds mostly these days unless were brave..or have no intention of going back!

Pharma for Prison


Shelley Tzorfas

When I first saw the Title "Autism Eats" many things came to mind. For one thing, many kids with Autism Barely eat. They typically limit themselves to chicken nuggets, hamburgers, pizza and maybe apple slices for much of the growing years. Autism kids often eat at different times than the rest of the family and sometimes only eat while listening to music or watching TV. Autism "Sneaks," they Sneak cookies and chips into their bedrooms and consume the entire box thinking that the parent does not know because Autism "Sleeps." Many kids on the Spectrum do not sleep through the night or barely sleep and take naps 2, 3, 4 times a day because their biological clocks operate at a different schedule. Naturally, you can Force them to go to school or work but watch out for those off days or summer days. Autism "Peaks?" Has Autism Peaked yet at 1 in every 11 children born in 2011? Are we There YET? (I do think "Autism Eats" serves an important role.

Tom W.

As the father of a 25 year old son with "real" Autism (substantial), I can attest that it is no gift for the child or the family. I think that this concept of Autism Eats is wonderful for all concerned. It certainly is better to have the family, especially the child, dining in a social setting rather than rushing from the restaurant and eating the reheated meal in the more isolated setting of the family home. I disagree that this is ghetto'ization, since the majority of the people in the room (i.e. the non-ASD family members) will be neurotypical.

Perhaps the organizers could include the Tourette's syndrome families, that certainly must face the same issues as the Autism families. The event also could include other "friends" of the community that understand the behaviors and are tolerant loving people. This would of course exclude the Neuro-Diverse storm troopers.


NJ if full of diners. That's where we take our guy now that he is older. When he was young and he was ready to leave a restaurant...which was 3 seconds after he shoveled his food in, he would throw up. Yup, just barf in his plate, because he knew we would all scramble, cover his plate and leave. Now you tell me these kids aren't smart as heck. It took years to overcome that behavior. But we did. God Bless.

Mark Wax

We regularly dine "out" at a local restaurant that treats us like "family." We choose to use an event room they have which is almost soundproofed from the rest of the premises. It is what our 25 year old son enjoys. It is like being in a family's dining room at a home. White table cloth and all. They "know" us. There is always an unlimited supply of our son's favorite "shrimp chips",.... at no charge.
There are other places we will go. Always "locally owned." The kind of "acceptance" that my son receives must always be with the notion that things ARE different for him. The business owners are parents too. They want to "help" our son, recognizing the severe disorder he is afflicted with.

bob moffit

Curious to know if the Neuro-Diversity tribe .. who insist Autism is a GIFT .. supports the concept of "Autism Eats" dinners reserved exclusively for autistic children that ... "can become overwhelmed by the sounds, sights and smells of a new place to eat, and the change in routine"?

Am I wrong to believe the Neuro-Diversity tribe would instinctively oppose ANY effort that dares recognize autism .. not as a GIFT .. but .. as a serious disorder affecting hundreds of thousands of children .. that desperately requires identifying BOTH .. a CAUSE AND CURE?

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