Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pizza incident at Rainforest Cafe adventure to the cities for the Autism Walk started off beautifully. Overcast day with some sun peeking through, fantastic resource fair, the kids were sweet and well behaved, and they got to play games to win prizes and jump in the inflatable house. The atmosphere was brimming with inspiration and hope. We were being recharged! Good thing too, because we left the walk to go the infamous Mall of America. I know what you're thinking...really? Are you new to autism lady? Could there be a more viciously overstimulating arena? But I made a carefully executable plan! I wanted to eat quickly and then proceed to Underwater world to walk harmoniously next to the sea turtles, and ponder the strange jellyfish as they lazily float by. Yeah Nice Pipe Dream Nicole. That is NOT what happened. The parking attendants were bossing people around like mob bosses, and when we finally found a spot in P4 Arizona (aka really far away), I pulled a crying Chandler from the back and talked him into calm as we made our way through Nordstroms. We had to take several escalators and reroutes down, and I almost bit the hostess's head off when she said, "Party of 6? That will be one hour." with a giant false smile. That would make lunch at 2:16. So we staved off hunger with a donut, and went to the least sensory offending stores I could find. We get seated at 2:15, and I manage to piss off employee 2 by requesting a rectangle table rather than a round one in the middle of a crowd of people, and I finally order PIZZA. Chandler loves pizza no matter where, when, or how. I calmed my nerves slightly by ordering a Pink parrot lemonade (it involves alcohol). I know, strike two for parent of the year. Fueled by sensory overload and hunger, he starts getting antsy, tossing silverware down to make it bang on the table, pushing away from his place to wander to the fish aquariums in the cafe, and toss his crayons in an angry manner. I feel a huge sense of relief when I see the waitress and she sets down his pizza, and I am excited and thinking to myself, "That wasn't so bad. Foods here! Time to relax!" As she was setting down the frog plate with the weird looking circular pie that looked yellower, flatter, and thinner than pizza we normally encounter, he violently shoved the plate and stared at me like I had betrayed him! He began to fight sitting in that chair for fear I would make him taste the offending entree with all the strength of an Ultimate fighter in training. He started screaming and one by one I could feel the pairs of eyes falling on him, and on me as my patience hit its limit, and I forcefully escorted a gasping, sobbing boy of 7 through all the tables full of people to the complete opposite side of the restaurant to the bathroom. I almost couldn't take it. I was so angry, so frustrated, but when I got him in the bathroom, what was I supposed to do? I fell to my knees in tears and yelled "You cannot act like this!" and threw my arms around his shaking little body. He was frustrated too. The place was loud and abrasive and he had put up with a lot, only to have something unfamiliar and unappetizing set down in front of his face. I let him cry while I held him, but tried to explain that we could not outburst like this. We eventually rejoined the table, and he allowed me to quickly eat half my sandwich, and we waited for the bill by the fish tank. The table behind us, near the tank, had a couple that had been there about the same time as we had, and I said in a very small voice, "I'm sorry if we interrupted your meal." They looked surprised and then the man said "No! You guys did not interrupt us at all! Please don't think that!" His wife or girlfriend shaking her head, very seriously, in agreement, "Not at all." My tears stopped me from choking out a proper thank you, and I was glad that for once I felt accepted, but had I not been brave enough to speak up, I would have walked out thinking every last table hated us. Maybe some did, but that's okay. My heart was lighter, and by the time we got in to see the Underwater world sea turtles, and amazon beauties swimming along, Chandler was calm again and grinning while we watched the jellyfish float and sway.


  1. Wow! You handled that beautifully! You did what you set out to do (eat - well, half a sandwich) Chandler experienced success (he calmed enough to get out!) and that nice couple had the chance to show their tolerance. Good for you!

  2. I was just at a Rainforest Cafe on Friday! Even though they are filled with lots of distractions like the fish tanks, rainbows, and waterfalls, they are total sensory overload. Funny, I was going to order the pizza for my daughter and I wondered what it would be like at RFC....I decided to stick with something that involved french fries. I'm so glad that someone was nice to you!

  3. I know how you feel. How often do people say that, and you think.. no you don't. but...I do.
    How many times have we been out with Ben and he's loud or jumpy, and obviously autistic. I swear my husband and I have waited for the one time someone says something or looks disapprovingly. It's never happened. It sounds like such a positive, and truly it is I guess. The fact that no one has ever given us that :you've ruined my dinner" look. yet, it can be just as heartbreaking to know your child isn't "passing" to even the most casual observer. No. There's no making me happy..:)