The Problems With "To The Woman And Child Who Sat At Table Nine"

Leo loves going to his favorite restaurants
A few thoughtful souls have forwarded me the Anti-Jared story about the restaurant manager who treated an autism family with kindness after another table complained about their noise. Here's the heart of the story, from the manager's perspective:
"I started to walk to your table. You knew what I was going to ask. You saw the table I just spoke to pointing at you. I got to your table and you looked at me. You wanted the first word. You said…

"'Do you know what it is like to have a child with Autism?'

"You were not rude when you asked the question. In fact, you were quite sincere. Your daughter could not have been more than five years old. She was beautiful and looked scared that I was at the table. She looked like she thought she was in trouble."
I did not "like" this story on Facebook, or share it, and I wish you wouldn't share without a comment, either. Why?

I appreciate stories about kind people doing nice things, but I would have handled the situation differently than the autism parent in the story:
  • I certainly wouldn't say or imply anything negative about autism or being Leo's mom in front of Leo.
  • Nor do I want people to feel sorry for me because Leo is autistic; he is awesome and I want people to know that. 
  • It's so important for people like Leo and families like ours to be out in public, without proactively or automatically feeling shame, or the need for social approval. 
  • However -- If Leo needs accommodation, or if we are disturbing people and we did not notice, I would hope both Leo and I would respond appropriately, in the moment. 
I hope the mother in the story finds some positive, acceptance- and understanding-focused community. She seems like she could use it. I'd suggest you visit and share the following Positive Autism Parenting Sites:
And, for the takeaway: Stories like this, in my opinion, are reinforcing pity by smothering it under feel-good. They reinforce the social segregation of autistic people and autism families. And that's not the world Leo or his autistic friends or our autistic families deserve to live in.


  1. Come to Ireland!! I'm beginning to realise how lucky we are. I've never had to deal with anyone complaining like this. Okay, I selectively support restaurants, shops and a movie theatre that give us space, quick sometimes preferential service and no judgey wudgy stares. In return, Liam observes a few social rules about volume & scripting or whooping in close proximity to other patrons. He holds it in until we are out in the Mall or on a walk or in the back seat of the car. (I don't allow flapping next to the driver) I genuinely can't remember the last time I apologised or explained. Maybe because Ireland is a succession of Villages where everyone has a brother, sister, cousin or someone they work with who has special needs. ?

  2. I think this, what you say about Ireland, shows up as well on Aer Lingus. We take Aer Lingus with our twin toddlers whenever we go overseas and have done since they were wee because Aer Lingus are far and away the loveliest airline and so are the passengers. The boys are not Autistic that I know of, but they are young, and I am Autistic.

  3. My question is what if someone who was an adult with a non-visible form of Autism made this request? I have been attacked by parents emotionally for being unable to tolerate the sounds kids sometimes make. While I understand it's important for parents with visibly Autistic children to feel safe in public, people don't mention the adults who struggle in a world that calls them child haters for their inability to tolerate the sounds children make. Perhaps if parents took some time before reacting to consider their behavior might be contributing to a view that parents have a right to lash out at anyone who can't tolerate children, even their child as they get older. I think parents of Autistic children should speak out against the parent culture that says it's understandable to yell or intimidate those who can't tolerate small children. Sooner than they realize their child will be an adult, and unless things change he'll be the one getting lashed out at by parents who assume anyone who can't tolerate children must hate them.


Respectful disagreement encouraged.

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