Finding a restaurant with food that pleases the entire family can be a daunting task. However, this is even more difficult with a child with autism. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 160 children has an autism spectrum disorder. For these families all over the world, it is a problem finding autism friendly businesses and particularly restaurants. Many restaurants are extremely noisy and busy, providing sensory overload for children with autism. This can make it hard to find a safe and autism-friendly restaurant, but follow these tips to make it easier.

Know When to Go

If you’re heading out for dinner at a restaurant, avoid going during peak times. You can call ahead to the restaurant and ask about their peak hours, or google the business. Google and OpenTable both provide graphs that depict the popular times of a business and how long people generally spend there. Generally, you will want to have an earlier dinner, around 4:30PM to beat the dinner rush, or a late lunch around 2PM to bypass the lunch rush. This will make sure that the restaurant is quieter with less sensory information to process.

Do Your Research

You will want to do your research to ensure that you pick a restaurant right for your child. Here are some factors to consider in your search.

  • Find Fast Service. Choosing a restaurant that is known for its speedy service can help limit the amount of time you and your child have to wait. This can ensure that your kid won’t be fidgety waiting for food.
  • Explore the Menu. Be sure the menu has something your kid will like, and is flexible and accommodating for special dietary needs such as gluten-free. You can also check pictures of the food on the restaurant’s website to get a feel for whether the food will be touching or mixed if this is an issue for your child.
  • Look at the Restaurant’s Reviews. There are many review services available for restaurants, so you should check them to determine if sensory overload could be a factor. Many review sites will let you know about the background music playing in the restaurant, ambient noises, and the noise of the crowd.
  • Call ahead. Make a reservation and let the staff or manager know that you will be dining with your child on the autism spectrum. Most restaurants are accommodating and will let you pick a table that is suitable for your family and adhere to any special requests during your dining experience.

Check Out the Autism Village App

Created as a kickstarter, the Autism Village app helps identify autism friendly businesses, organizations, and services for its users. It is a completely free app that runs on reviews from the community. You can conduct a search based on your GPS location and find autism-friendly restaurants nearby. After your visit, you can review the restaurant and provide feedback on your experience for other members. This not only helps other families, but also helps the restaurant learn the importance of disability rights and how to be more autism-friendly.
It may be hard to find a restaurant that is autism-friendly, but these tips will help you navigate the restaurant scene and pick an eatery that is perfect for your family.

by Lucy Wyndham