Dan has severe autism and a number of other diagnoses. One of the things we enjoy as a family is going out for Sunday lunch. Today we enjoyed going out to a restaurant that was very busy. Dan was excellent! Going out for a meal would not have been possible without ABA. Originally we could not take Dan out to any public places without lots of challenging behaviours being exhibited. It has taken a lot of hard work by his family and his therapy team over the years, but now we can enjoy the benefits of that hard work and so can Dan! We all have a much better quality of life thanks to ABA making it possible to go out for lunch.
We first identified the skills that Dan would need to be able to go out for lunch:
Waiting for a long period of time while the order is taken and then for the food to be served
Remaining seated during the whole meal
Remaining reasonably quiet and not exhibiting loud vocal stims
Remaining seated and waiting after he had finished his meal
Having good eating habits, including being able to eat with cutlery
Liking a food that is on the menu and fits within Dan’s diet.
We have worked on the following programs within Dan’s ABA program and then generalised them to our family:
Be quiet program so as he can learn to control his vocal stims for periods of time
Feeding program as when Dan was younger he had a very limited diet
Use of cutlery program – this was implemented in conjunction with the occupational therapist
We then developed a list of cafés/restaurants according to their level of difficulty. We started with cafés that you can get the food quickly, supermarket cafés for example where you can select the food and take it with you immediately. We then moved to cafés where we had to wait for the food and then eventually to pubs/restaurants. We would always choose a time to work on going to these places when they were reasonably quiet initially.
Other tips which we have found to be useful are:
Notify the restaurant of any diet issues before hand
When we began working on taking Dan out to restaurants we initially used to explain the situation to them when we booked the table and would ask to be seated somewhere appropriate
At places where we expected a long wait we initially would take his DVD player along for him to watch during the wait
Now we can take him most places for Sunday lunch and this year we will all be going out as a whole family for lunch on Christmas Day! Good ABA leads to better quality of life for both the child/adult with autism and the family.