Invisible Special Needs and Dining Out

If you have a special needs kiddo, then you know that eating out can be a challenge.  For that matter if you have a large family, eating out can be a challenge.  If you happen to have a large family to help support your special needs child, well then, you are never getting seated.

Yesterday we had errands to run which took us to down the hill (yes, we really call it that) after church.  The kids were not happy about the errands.  We were getting new ski boots for them, but they didn't care - they didn't want to be there, doing that.   We had a grumpy teenager (not a special need, but noteworthy), one with sensory seeking behaviors, one showing an array of fear, worry, stress and the one with the most complex diagnosis was having a great day.  Go figure.  Add to that my darling husband being awakened in the middle of a "race for your life" type dream, and it was the recipe for a disastrous day.

Our  children's "special needs" are of the unobservable distinction.  Through the years many labels have been tossed in our children's direction:  RAD, SPD, FAS, FAE, ADD, ADHD, PTSD, Dyslexia, ODD and the list goes on.  If you have a child with one of these invisible special needs you know the behavior that preceded the diagnosis.  You will understand the challenges that sometimes accompany eating in a public place.

To be honest, we are really lucky ... or maybe I've just gotten used to it.  Hmmm.  A time of self-reflection may be in order.  We only have a family of 6.  When we were foster parents we had a larger family, but now that we are closed our number of members no longer fluctuates.  I can now anticipate the behaviors most of the time and get ahead of them.  We have trigger releases that work at home and at school, but in public that can be a different story.  With an audience I can't always be sure what will happen.

Anyway, church is over and it is time to feed the crew.

I asked where they wanted to eat and absolutely no one in the car answered.  Okay.  I thought and drove.  I need a place to get all these boys on a different path.  It is likely that we will have one with a meltdown during the meal, I need to get two of them into a better mind set, I need to fill up a sensory tank and convince one of them that he really is hungry and does need to eat.  Spicy food, sweet food, way too many TVs tuned to football and a very loud crowd could meet the majority of my needs.  I drove us to Buffalo Wild Wings.  I thought I was brilliant.

Maybe I wasn't.  The wait time was "unknown" since Sunday Football was on and we needed such a big table.  Luckily, 10 minutes later and we were buzzed to be seated.

We ordered, and I watched as my little sensory seeker was absorbed by the loud noises and lights from the TVs, the meltdown that I knew was around the corner was hidden by the loud cheering when some team some where scored, my difficult to feed one forgot that he was planning to tell me he wasn't hungry and ate while watching everything around him and my teenager and husband enjoyed the games.  We left this noisy, spicy food establishment with uplifted spirits and full tanks to tackle the shopping trip ahead of us.