My Max has apraxia. I know what he's saying but sometimes, others don't. This can rub people the wrong way, especially when he's talking in a louder voice. Amanda's son rubbed someone the wrong way that day. The manager showed up at their table shortly after their food was brought out, noted that he'd received a noise complaint about Killian, and said that unfortunately they needed to finish their meals and leave. He gave them a $20 credit as a consolation prize.
Corporate later apologized in a statement, reports The Washington Post: "We strive to make sure all guests feel comfortable and welcomed in our restaurants and we fell short. We're learning from what happened and training our team so we can better serve our guests and population."
This is mind-boggling on so many levels. First up: that a customer was so distraught by the voice of a young child. Couldn't that person have just focused on enjoying the food and the people they were with? Couldn't that person have asked for another table? Couldn't that person just have had even a smidgen of acceptance? It's also outrageous that a manager would think the rights of the customer who complained superseded those of this family—really, he should have given the person who complained a rain check (make that "complain check") and told him to come back another time.
I'm thinking back to a story from several years ago, in which a restaurant patron asked to be moved away from a family that had a child with Down syndrome. After the complainer commented "Special needs children need to be special somewhere else," the waiter flat out refused to serve him and the restaurant stood behind him.
Now, I'm not saying that restaurants should allow every child with special needs to stay put—if they are having a tantrum or screaming or running around, it's acceptable to ask a parent to step outside with that child, same as with any child. But that didn't seem to be the case this time around.
Intolerance of children with disabilities who have speech challenges can really flair up at restaurants. I can recall another story from years ago in which a mother told a waiter that their meal was OK "Except for the retard in the next booth ruining things by making noise, everything is fine." She was referring to a child with autism nearby who was squealing and repeatedly saying he was hungry. Yes, someone said that.
More restaurants need to offer training for employees about handling situations like this and accommodating children with disabilities. As these incidents make the social media rounds, hopefully they will force restaurants to pay attention. As for people who can't accept the wide variety of behavior that is humanity, well, they may not be able to digest awareness and acceptance, but the rest of us can keep right on serving it to them.
Flickr image of a restaurant/atmtx