The waitress, the autistic girl and the broken hamburger
March 26th, 2013
08:00 PM ET
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Last Sunday was just an average morning for Anna Kaye MacLean. Her sister, 7-year-old Arianna, had slept over at her house the night before and seemed to have woken up in a good mood - which is not always a given for a child with autism.

After determining that Arianna’s mood was stable enough for a day of fun activities outside the home, MacLean and her husband decided to take Arianna out to lunch, with a bonus visit to the Easter Bunny afterward. They decided to eat lunch at the Chili’s Bar and Grill in Midvale, Utah, where a beautiful thing happened - and went viral.

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MacLean requested a booth facing the window, knowing it would allow her sister the freedom to move around, while also keeping her entertained by watching what was going on outside. The hostess happily obliged and said their server would be over to greet them soon. The MacLean party was going to be one of Lauren Wells' last tables of the day, and with a bright smile, she approached the party to introduce herself and take drink orders.

Before she could even say, “Hi, welcome to Chili’s, I’m Lauren and I’ll be your waitress,” Arianna had excitedly rattled off her entire order: chocolate milk, a cheeseburger with pickles and a side of fries.

Wells delivered the food shortly, but as MacLean watched Arianna devour her French fries, she noticed that her sister wasn’t touching her cheeseburger.

“It was really, really bizarre,” MacLean told CNN in a phone interview. “Arianna loves anything in a hamburger bun. She’s obsessed with hamburgers or ‘Krabby Patties,’” an ode to one of Arianna’s favorite cartoon shows, Spongebob Squarepants.

MacLean asked her sister if she was going to eat her cheeseburger. “No, I don’t want it,” Arianna responded. “It’s broked. I need a new one that’s fixed.”

It’s a standard Chili’s policy to cut a child’s burger in half to ensure the meat is fully cooked to 170° degrees, and that's what was "broken."

When Wells returned to the table, she noticed Arianna was crying, and asked what was the matter.

"I know this is going to sound silly, but I need to order another cheeseburger," MacLean told the server. Wells had a concerned look on her face and MacLean was quick to assure her that there was nothing wrong with the food. "No, no, no, this one is fine," she explained, "But it’s cut in half and she thinks it's broke.'”

MacLean quietly told Wells about Arianna’s autism and adamantly said she wanted to pay for the additional burger. But instead of speaking to MacLean, Wells leaned over to the little girl and addressed her directly, saying, “Ohmygosh! I brought you a broken cheeseburger! I’ll go get you a new one.”

Arianna stopped crying shortly after. MacLean, particularly moved by this, said Wells' exchange with her sister was something she had never experienced before.

“I think most people, just out of fear and the unknown, don’t know how to interact with a kid with autism, so people will usually just keep the interaction with me.” When necessary, MacLean explains her sister's condition.

Wells graduated from the University of Utah in May 2012 with a degree in psychology and hopes to do social work with children in the future. She also has an autistic family member, and said that while she thought Arianna might be autistic, she never assumes anything.

“I treated her the same way that [I would] any other kid who would be crying, but in her case, it was something different,” said Wells. She approached her manager Brad Cattermole, who told her they would happily switch out the broken burger for a new one.

Cattermole, too, stopped by the table and knelt down to speak with Arianna at eye level to apologize again. “You know, I heard we brought you a broken cheeseburger and I am so sorry. We’re back there making you a new one, but let me bring you out some french fries while you’re waiting.”

MacLean says one of the main reasons the exchange was so special was Wells' and Cattermole's decision to speak to Arianna directly.

“It was so cool because it was so intimate. [Brad] wasn’t trying to be loud or trying to make his presence know to anybody else. It was just very, very private, very intimate,” said MacLean.

“Our goal is to make guests feel special, so anything we can do to make an experience over the top of special, we give our servers the power to make the decisions to make that happen,” said Cattermole in a phone interview with CNN. “We’re trying to get each server to connect to each table individually and Lauren is amazing at connecting with our guests.”

MacLean noticed that, surprisingly, Arianna wasn’t upset about the cheeseburger. In fact, she was uncharacteristically calm about the entire situation.

“This was so bizarre because usually, that would have just led to a huge meltdown,” MacLean said, adding that a typical meltdown for Arianna could include tantrums, throwing herself on the floor and general screaming - sometimes getting so violent that she could even physically hurt herself. “I think what prevented the meltdown was that Lauren and Brad were talking to her. They weren’t talking to me, they were talking to her.”

Several minutes later, when the new, unbroken cheeseburger arrived, Arianna stared at it for a few moments before exclaiming, “Oh, I missed you!” and kissing the top of the burger bun.

MacLean quickly snapped a picture and showed it to Wells, jokingly telling her “I think we glorified the cheeseburger a little too much.” Wells, lighting up like a Christmas tree and smiling from ear to ear, asked if she could show the picture to her co-workers and manager.

“It was a cute story. I’ve never heard of a broken cheeseburger, or anything else ‘broken’ for that matter,” said Wells, explaining that she wanted to share it with her coworkers because it was such a sincere interaction.

“It was just a really, really touching experience just to see that kind of compassion and professionalism,” said MacLean. “[Lauren] could have easily just been like, ‘Okay...’ and gone to get her a new one. But she went above and beyond and I feel like everybody involved that was working that day from the hostess to the line cook, just everybody, was super, super amazing. It’s just not something that we’re used to when we have situations like that come up.”

MacLean, who works in customer service for an insurance company and recognizes good service when she sees it, decided to share her story on Chili's Facebook page. The story quickly went viral (it has been shared near 160,000 times and liked by more than 667,000 people) touching hearts around the nation.

MacLean hopes it does more than that, though; she hopes it helps people recognize that not every kid screaming in a restaurant is an uncontrollable brat.

“While we’ve never had a personal experience like this, we know people who have been asked to leave restaurants when their kid with autism starts getting out of hand. It’s so heartbreaking,” said MacLean.

While MacLean and Arianna have never been told to leave a restaurant, they have had experiences where Arianna has gotten too overwhelmed or overstimulated at the table. Other people haven't always understood her autism, and MacLean has chosen on her own accord to leave.

Arianna will sometimes growl while she is eating. MacLean believes that it may be a sensory thing that Arianna chooses to do, or that she may like the feel of growling while she eats her food. Fellow patrons haven't always understood. “We’re used to it and it’s fine, but there were some people sitting next to us and they got up and moved clear across to the other side of the restaurant because it was bothering them so bad.”

The lack of understanding can be frustrating, says MacLean. When Arianna is having a meltdown, most people think she’s just being a brat and that she's being babied. The older sister can't deliver a disclaimer about Arianna’s autism everywhere she goes, but if people are interested she will tell them. The tone of the interaction invariably changes - but words are always directed toward MacLean and never Arianna.

This made Wells' and Cattermole's interactions with Arianna all the more special. “It’s so silly," MacLean said, "but I know every person out there that has a kid with autism can relate. That broken cheeseburger can make or break our day and it made our day, and the rest of the day was great.”

MacLean admitted that she never meant for the Facebook post to go viral; rather, she wanted to recognize Wells and Cattermole for their stellar ability to connect with Arianna on a human level. “It’s not so much that we need to bring autism awareness on a customer service level," she said, "but on a normal, typical social human being interaction. Being sensitive to people whether they have autism or they don’t.”

“I think this stuff happens more often than people recognize,” Cattermole said, “but it was Anna going on to spend 15 minutes to recognize a job well done which led to this outpouring of support.”

Wells agreed, saying that while it was definitely a table she wouldn’t forget, she never expected the response MacLean’s story received. She went on to explain that her interaction with the family didn’t seem weird or out of the ordinary to her.

“It makes me so sad that this is [considered] abnormal,” said Wells. “I was just being myself. I didn’t expect any of this; it’s been overwhelming but definitely cool.”

Chili’s parent company Brinker International Restaurants echoed Cattermole's and Wells’ sentiments in an official statement emailed to CNN.

“Moments like the one from Midvale happen in our restaurants every day, at every table, at every Chili’s across the country. We are delighted by the shining examples in Lauren Wells, Brad Cattermole and the Midvale team, and their kind gestures that made Arianna, Anna and Alex [MacLean's husband] feel so incredibly special. This story made our Midvale team members heroes, and we are so proud to have so many local heroes in our restaurants nationwide who make everyday moments like Arianna’s so heartwarming.”

MacLean has since read the hundreds of comment from strangers on her Facebook post, many of whom admitted they have never thought of something like that when encountering a screaming child at a restaurant. Her hope is that the next time they see a kid being a little different they might just think, "Maybe they have autism; maybe there’s something a little more than meets the eye.”

And for the record, Chili's didn’t charge for the new, “unbroken” cheeseburger.

Has your family been touched by autism? Have you run into either positive or sticky situations in restaurants? Please share your story in the comments below.

When crying kids disrupt dinner, who ends up paying the price?
Are some diners facing discrimination?
I scream. You scream. Some of us scream for scream-free restaurants
Make your kid more restaurant-friendly

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Filed under: Favorites • Kids in Restaurants • News • Restaurants • Service

soundoff (831 Responses)
  1. Justin H

    This story brought tears to my eyes. Regardless of whether it is a child with autism or not, it's amazing to see people show this much kindness to a child. The fact they went out of their way for a child with autism just makes it better. Hopefully Chili's has shared this story throughout their company and trains all of their employees to treat their guests this way.

    April 1, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
  2. Justsayin

    I agree. Sometimes it's a fine line. As parents you want to teach your children well and the amount of frustration is unbelievable for both. Coming to grips with it, not worrying about what everyone else thinks is a big hurdle. It's very hard to stick with it, but as parents we do.

    April 1, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  3. Art

    I hope and pray that there is cure for my Onna.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:01 am |
  4. Khawar Nehal

    Some people growl a bit when they eat. It is akin to the MMMMM of mcdonalds. It means I am loving it. Autistic kids have different thought process. The growling is to let you know clearly they are really enjoying this food. Do not attempt to correct too many behaviors too quickly. As far as I know, they are very aware of the surroundings. You can test this by asking them a question and you may get an very detailed answer. The words may not be perfect for a child because they might have trouble "finding" the appropriate words. Teach them new words and see how they are able to use them appropriately. To be able to understand an autistic person (not all) think of them as a cross between a logical robot and a link logic human. Humans think about the emotions of others first and prevent themselves from speaking. Autistic people think about themselves after others usually. They do care and if you notice they can blow up because they feel no one is caring about them. You may find this strange that the autistic child is very calm, because communication is assumed to be an issue. An autistic child knows what they "feel like" the tantrum comes when people "assume" instead of listen. Usually their needs are small and can be easily met. Explosions are more likely to occur when an autistic child thinks others are assuming too much and when the autistic child thinks others do not care to listen to even a small demand. They are likely to make a demand they know can be fulfilled or they think is practically possible. The "I missed you" means that the child has seen the complete burger possible and probably was provided the adult burger before in a previous visit. Or seen the adult burger delivered before. The missed you means more likely they have already had a "complete" one piece burger. The reason the autistic child wants a one piece is it is less messy. A messy burger shall make them look "more autistic" and they want to avoid that. Notice they have no issues communicating when people listen instead of assuming that they are speaking clearly. An austistic child speaking (with their limited vocabulary) clearly is an alien concept in the adult world of normal people. They learn to talk indirectly in euphemisms. Autistic people have a lot of trouble with indirect adult speech and are more likely to ignore it rather than assume it means something and take the risk of getting into trouble.

    There are multiple types of autism. I have described one of them.

    I need some help with autism research. If you can help do some research please email me on


    March 31, 2013 at 4:43 am |
    • Franchiworks

      Thanks for one of the few highly intelligent and readable posts on the site, if you need help with research, try Western Michigan University's psychology department, they have done lots of studies regarding child and adult autism.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  5. lissthomas3152

    Reblogged this on Liss Thomas and commented:
    Ok, I'm misty eyed! Very Nice

    March 29, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • Michelle

      I'm glad to see that I am not the only person who got misty-eyed while reading this story.

      March 29, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • David

      Growling often blocks out the over stimulation.

      March 30, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
      • Mrs. J

        That makes a lot of sense, David. I work with kids with autism, but I have never heard an explanation for that behavior before. Thanks.

        March 31, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  6. disappointed in humanity

    why do people argue, disrespect, swear and make fun of people here, look the waitress did a nice thing, can we not leave it at that? Please do not reply to this unless it is respectful

    March 28, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • It's sad

      Because some people are miserable. And to combat that sense of permanent negativity they seek out positives and do their very best to combat them and bring them to a halt so that others may be on the same pathetically awful level of outlook that they are. It's too bad.

      April 2, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • TheBabySitter

      Many adults do not realize that they ALSO have mental or emotional problems. They've developed coping mechanisms that involve negativity of some type or other. This is born out by their reactions to kids being kids.

      (Get real: sometimes kids have meltdowns. If we could "schedule" these meltdowns, I think we'd all arrange them to occur at home, after or before mealtimes.)

      April 2, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
  7. Krista Shaw

    I wish CNN would step up their game when it comes to reporting about people with disabilities. The idea of person-first language has been around for over 20 years. She is not "an autistic child" she is a child with autism. I've seen many CNN written and broadcast reports use this incorrectly. It is disrespectful and offensive.

    March 28, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Jan Mann

      Really! That is what bothers you? Autistic child v/s child with autism? Whay is one insulting while the other acceptable? Some of you PC people have no jobs, but to sit around and find fault with everyone.

      March 28, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Carla

      A lot of autistic adults I know prefer not to use "people with autism" because they feel it erases the fact that their autism is part of who they are, not a disease.

      March 28, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Lars Babaganoosh

      Sounds like you're a person with an attitude problem. The rest of us call it a b1tchy b1tch.

      March 29, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Luka

      Hi, yeah, real live autistic person here. Please don't ever correct us how to identify, it's very rude. "person with autism" implies that I have a disease that needs curing, rather than running a slightly different neurological operating system that is just as much a part of who I am as being non-autistic is a part of who you are.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:42 am |
  8. Tony M.

    Cheeseburger, Ketchup only Please!
    Boy, in the old days, a special order at McDonalds was hit or miss.
    And I would get visibly upset when that pickle and onions showed up.
    I was that child, and am that adult.
    My childhood predated the current definitions for Autism inre Asperger's syndrome, and had a hard time to say the least.
    Beyond getting sent to the school shrink, and having repeated comments from the old man about how I was defective for being a picky limited eater who never shut up, the outside world was also hard to manage.
    Now, with cognitive engagement and planning, I manage, hold a job with pay in the low 6 figures (rocket scientist type).. but as a child I was at the mercy much more to the strange tugs and pulls of Aspergian behavior.

    Even as an adult, when they order lunch in and all the sandwiches have layers of things that are perfectly normal but make my skin crawl, like Mayo layered on into the onions with no hope of remediation via a quick scrape off into the trash, I run into it. When the pizza has too much stuff on it and makes my stomach clench.
    I don't choose this, wish it didn't happen.

    So glad you all cut some kid the slack and didn't make a hard life harder.


    March 28, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Lobelia

      Thank you, Tony, for that lucid view of what it was like for you as a child.
      I'm so happy you're a high-earning, high-functioning Aspie now and I hope your satisfations far outweigh those moments.
      And kudos for your kindness and empathy toward that child, and even toward readers. (I think sometimes people assume less empathy among spectrum-people, when I don't think it's so.)

      April 2, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
  9. Sean MacNair

    Damn some of you people are heartless. Well stop, because I don't have enough time or enough boots to plant my foot up all your a sses.

    March 28, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • OvernOut

      I'll join you, I still have a pair of good steel-toed boots that I used for work. There are a lot of FUBAR rants here, completely uncalled for.

      March 28, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
  10. running with scissors

    It'll be interesting years from now when society is full of adults who freak out over things like their burger being cut in half.

    Oh wait....

    March 28, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Mr B.

      I agree to a point but people should be a little courteous . I have some disabilities from my service in Viet Nam . Now you BABOONS wold you make fun of Serviceman who have lost arms , legs just for your freedom and 1st admemdment rights.I also think that some people are afraid of people who are different

      March 28, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
      • HistoryGeek

        I agree. The only fight I ever got in to at school was over a man named Charles Woods. He was a decorated WWII pilot who was severely burned during a botched take off by an inexperienced co-pilot. In the 1970s he ran for governor and later Lt. governor of my state, I was in high school at the time and some kids were making fun of his burned and scarred face. I let them have it -QUITE loudly- and got in trouble for it.

        April 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • TheBabySitter


      April 2, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  11. J

    Whether people like this story, or don't - everyone is entitled to an opinion! So long as it's stated in a respectful manner, it's everyone's perogative to express themselves. I'm so tired of people telling those that don't agree with them that they're an "@ss" or that they are "trolls." Since when is someone who disagrees with you automatically a troll? Sheesh, people.

    March 28, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  12. Captain Slapaho@Cold Truth

    You, sir, are a rect@l wart upon the buttocks of this blog, and I demand that you slay yourself immediately.

    March 28, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Cold Truth

      Haha, I had a good chuckle at that. That was funny, thanks.

      March 29, 2013 at 12:54 am |
  13. Chris Rowan

    There *is* a (not unnatural) tendency to over pamper people on the autistic spectrum, and unfortunately, it doesn't serve them well. In my (considerable) experience, people with autism respond very positively to the bar being raised, not lowered. The waitress and the manager did the exact right thing by addressing her directly. That the mother was surprised concerns me some. Chances are she is compensating and stepping in for and sheltering her child a bit too much. I understand the tendency, but it's not constructive. Of course, always easier said than done...

    March 28, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  14. Cold Truth

    We are already overpopulated. We need to start killing off the undesirables. They are a drain on society and a blemish in the gene pool. I am pro sterilization of all people with disabilities and low IQs and believe that these "people" hold us back as a species.

    Being worse than normal does not make you "a gift from God". Wouldn't it be a curse from God, since the child is all messed up?

    Seriously, we need to start the eugenics process now if we want to save our planet, else, Idiocracy, here we come!

    March 28, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Truth™@Cold Truth

      Sounds like we need to start with you. Just sayin.

      March 28, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Brook Monroe

      Yes, we are overpopulated as a planet. I don't know how many undesirables we need to eliminate, but I'm pretty sure I've identified at least one. As the parent of a high-functioning autistic child, I'm volunteering YOU to be the first undesirable we get rid of, because my son is 100x the person you are, or will ever be.

      March 28, 2013 at 11:39 am |
      • Cold Truth

        In which way is your son 100x more capable than me? Surely not at communicating. To be 100x better than me, his IQ would need to be 300 SD above the mean, so I don't think that's the case. Is he an athlete? He may be able to lift 100x as much weight as me in which case I am sure we will se him on the news at some point for being the strongest "person" alive. Is he 100x less offensive than me? That is probably true, but that would imply that he is 100x less truthful than me.

        But wait, he can't communicate his inoffensive ideas very well, can he?

        March 28, 2013 at 11:57 am |
        • Meri

          You are such an ignorant piece of work. My autistic son is FAR superior to you. He would never dream of being rude to anyone. And has a lot more class then you will ever have. I sincerely hope that one day you will learn from your ignorant comments and grow as a person. I doubt that will ever happen though. Such a shame.

          March 28, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
        • Cold Truth

          I already admitted that your "children" are probably more polite than me. I don't consider this an important component of what makes a person valuable to society.

          Is it possible that your child isn't mean because he doesn't know how to be?

          March 28, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
        • Belfrey

          The marked lack of empathy displayed by your post could indicate some sort of pathology... have you ever been evaluated for psychopathy?

          March 28, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
        • nukyuhler

          Your utter lack of empathy makes you an ideal candidate for your own eugenics program. You are probably just a forum troll hiding anonymously behind your IP address, but in case you are the sociopath you portray yourself to be it might behoove you to educate yourself on autism. It is a spectrum of behaviors. I have Aspergers as do my brother and son. I am also a Manager at the country's second largest nuclear plant. I am a decorated veteran, I teach theoretical physics at a local college, and I'm an accomplished martial artist. I can personally attest to the difficulty of accepting that your brain is not neurotypical....that many of my social interactions are based on rehearsed and logical processes when they come naturally to others. Its extremely arrogant for you to define one's contribution to our species by your own skill set. A society without consideration and empathy would collapse as surely as one without science, medicine, art, etc.

          April 2, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
        • Bob Bales

          " I don't consider this an important component of what makes a person valuable to society. " Suppose, however, that the person in charge of deciding who is "undesirable" does. Do you then agree that you should be done away with because you don't meet their standards? If not, then why should anyone be called "undesirable" or be done away with because they don't meet your standards?

          April 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
        • TheBabySitter

          So sad. ColdTruth, is trolling, trying to get a reaction. But the "cold truth" is more than likely that s/he lives a cold, quiet life ALONE.

          April 2, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • palintwit

      Sarah Palin should have had that Trig thing aborted when she had the chance.

      March 28, 2013 at 11:57 am |
      • Elaine

        Wow, twit. you're a useless pos.

        March 29, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • RichardHead

      Another child left behind by the Obama Administration and living in his Mom's basement 'cuz he doesn't know who his Real Daddy is.

      March 28, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Aaron

      A good place to start would be with the people who lack empathy or compassion for fellow man. Execute them first, and then lets revisit your idea.

      March 28, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • ChelseaChels

      You, sir, are a moron. Clearly you have never bothered to interact with children with disabilities and autism. And for that, I feel sorry for you, because you have obviously never experienced the LIFE that these kids express in everything they do. And you're worried about 'idiocracy'? Well if you're so worried, look in the mirror, you're the leading man of Idiocracy.

      On a side note, I applaud this staff. This was a heart warming, touching story. It's sad that idiots can comment on such a story and try to bring it down.

      March 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • The Truth Isn't Always Cold

      You seem to highly value social capabilities in determining whether or not a person is a "valid." Unfortunately, not only is eugenics unethical, it is nearly impossible to remove members from the population without bias.
      First, consider this: you clearly lack sympathy for other humans. You claim that autism makes a person less invalid than your lack of empathy, however, I would consider a lack of empathy more dangerous to society and the population then autism. While autism may affect an individual it rarely impacts other members of society, whereas a lack of empathy demonstrates a great threat to society, due to its correlation to psychopathy, and thus associated criminal actions.
      Second, "cleaning" the gene pool eradicates potentially useful genes. Although many would consider malformations of the mind and body to be harmful to the gene pool, it is important to keep in mind that things viewed as malformation in their time could potentially be a next step in evolution. Although this may seem statistically unlikely to you, if we truly dedicated ourselves toward the eugenic program you suggest, we would almost certainly halt any potential genetic progress we might make.
      Three, many people with serious diseases possess no "threat" to the gene pool anyway. I don't see why you are worrying yourself so much with the concept of them polluting the gene pool. Surely if you are as intelligent as you act, you should realize that others are not nearly as competitive from genetic stand point.
      Four, the idiocracy is a lie. Look it up.

      March 28, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
      • JohnArtist

        Bravo! An excellent answer!

        April 2, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • Elaine

      Idiocracy, here we come.....You're there dear......loud and proudly so. Killing off undesireable people: you better be thanking God it's not legal, else you would have had numerous attempts upon your miserable life.

      March 28, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Compassionateandsmart

      Einstein, Mozart, Darwin and many other important people in history were thought to be on the autism spectrum. My guess is there are many alive right now that will do much more for this world than you EVER could. Now crawl back under your rock.

      March 28, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Meowser

      What a horribly cruel and inhumane attitude.

      I hope you never have children. If you do, I feel sorry for them.

      March 28, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Uranidiot

      You are so abnormal. You are not a human being you are so deprive of compassion, understanding and love. You need to be locked up in a mental institution. I hope you do not reproduce.

      March 28, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Chester

      Actually Malthus and Ehrlich, the two big names in overpopulation have been wrong repeatedly. Since your premise is false anything derived from it is questionable at best.

      March 28, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Sean MacNair

      Dear Cold Truth;

      F uck you. Come to Elyria, OH so I can kick your a ss.

      March 28, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
      • Meowser

        Well said!

        March 28, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Tony M.

      Interesting. You assume that because these traits exist, that high functionality can't be achieved?
      I was that child, I am that adult. I have personally risen to the top ranks in Mechanical Engineering in multiple companies, and in the most recent role have saved a company from failure by understanding their issues and resolving via design changes. I likely make more $$ than you, in the low 6 figures, near the top in my field. I successfully mastered and excelled at one of the top universities in the world.
      And you say, Eugenics?
      Do you not know that most of our technical advances are by the folks like me? That your HDTV, internet, and office programs are written by us?
      And where is the line? I could easily have fallen below the cusp, like many who are like me do, and never get to that first rung.. opportunity lost to society to gain, to benefit, due to folks like you?
      If society were more accepting, perhaps Cancer would be only a memory, aging understood and solved, our energy problems in the past. But that would mean that Tech Support guy who couldn't handle the abuse in High School never went to college, even with their genius IQ, and took a different path that let them lay low and hide from bigots, did go.. and made you eat your words.

      March 28, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Steve

      So, you would be volunteering to be at the head of the line? Perfect place for your sort.

      March 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Joseph Chillino

      Let's start with you.

      March 28, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • Cold Truth

      Feed the troll! Nom nom nom.

      The Truth Isn't Always Cold-

      First, consider this: you clearly lack sympathy for other humans. You claim that autism makes a person less invalid than your lack of empathy, however, I would consider a lack of empathy more dangerous to society and the population then autism. While autism may affect an individual it rarely impacts other members of society, whereas a lack of empathy demonstrates a great threat to society, due to its correlation to psychopathy, and thus associated criminal actions.

      Very true. I absolutely agree.

      Second, "cleaning" the gene pool eradicates potentially useful genes. Although many would consider malformations of the mind and body to be harmful to the gene pool, it is important to keep in mind that things viewed as malformation in their time could potentially be a next step in evolution. Although this may seem statistically unlikely to you, if we truly dedicated ourselves toward the eugenic program you suggest, we would almost certainly halt any potential genetic progress we might make.

      Any reduction in biodiversity is a bad thing. A genetically pruned society would result in a society that is unable to adapt and change. Diversity is desirable because of the different viewpoints that come with it. I would not support any action that would reduce the potential variety of thought processes.

      Tony M- I always believed that it was well known that those who are afflicted with autism tend to have very advanced analytical skills. They have contributed a great deal to society and will continue to in the future. They are capable of performing tasks that many normal people cannot.

      Thank you all for some light entertainment today.

      March 29, 2013 at 1:01 am |
      • Evil Monkey

        Nice one dude..

        March 30, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • Autism Parent

      Your "cold truth has already been tried in history. Germany wanted only perfect people in their society so they killed off whoever they considered undesirables. If you brain listened at school you would have heard of Hitler and WWII. Obviously you memorize info but did not lean anything from history.

      Those with Autism teach us how not to put others down and try harder to things right. My son worked every day of his 39 years to be better and be accepted. You are obviously of the bully group thinking you are better.

      March 29, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Bob Jones

      Zeig Heil!

      March 29, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • CDS

      You sound a lot like Adolf Hitler.

      April 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Bob

      Cold Truth, the truth is we are in an idiocracy. You are proof. Please run with scissors.

      April 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • seanbreeden

      Who gets to decide who is undesirable and should be terminated? Let me guess... anyone not as smart as you think you are. Stephen Hawking would have been gone 40 years ago under your plan. Your views are truly despicable. I'm surprised by the lack of even the BASIC level of human compassion of people hiding behind their keyboards on this thread. I would write, "you should be ashamed" but I already know someone that could think the way you do doesn't know how. You think kids with Autism are hurting our society? Go look in the mirror and you'll see the real problem.

      April 2, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
  15. Emmi

    This family was blessed, they were waited on by a nice waitress. Most would have rolled their eyes, and made nasty comments to the staff.

    March 28, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  16. Father of 3 .... 1 with autism

    To those who lack perspective, this isn't a story about eating, a story about tantrums, a story about leaving a restaurant, movie theater or supermarket, or a story about giving into a child’s behavior. It’s a story about compassion, understanding and how a simple gesture can mean so much to a family or individual.

    Chili’s….you should be proud of how your employees handled the situation. It’s so easy these days to dismiss someone as being difficult, acting out of line or seeming entitled. What’s proven in this article is that there are still folks out there that care…..yup, it’s as simple as caring.

    Monday April 1st kicks off Autism Awareness Month and Tuesday April 2nd’, is World Autism Awareness Day. I’d suggest those who are commenting on this article and don’t have a child with autism, take a step back and try to see things through the eyes of parents and/or caregivers of those with Autism and try to gain some knowledge of what we go through on a daily basis.

    I wouldn't trade my life with anybody and I NEVER pray that my child would not have been born with Autism….it’s a gift and it’s opened mine and my wife’s eyes to a glorious, albeit sometimes challenging, world.

    Our four year old daughter pointed at the full moon last night and said “moon”, it was the sweetest sound and I’ll remember it forever. It was a rare moment when a relevant words was spoken at the right time and it might not happen again for a while. How’s that for perspective??

    March 27, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
    • Linda

      mom of 3 boys....1 with Autism
      AMEN! Couldn't have said it better myself ;-)

      March 28, 2013 at 3:34 am |
    • Camalot1

      Amen. Today is my son's third birthday, and he led me to the fridge and asked "sta-beee" (strawberry) for the first time ever. He is slow to communicate, but super polite when he does ask, always "kisses" to say "please" and uses his iPad (for communication and other things) more efficiently than I do. He spells up to 6 letter words and those words are growing. Wonderful to see our kids become who they can be!

      April 1, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  17. Well

    I must be autistic myself, because I simply don't understand why these children need to be so pampered. If your child really is hungry, they will eat. If this were my child, autistic or not, she would've eaten the food or we would have simply left and she would not eat anything. Today's parents are so willing to defend their child's "illness" and get sympathy from every news outlet in the country, but they are so unwilling to actually buckle down and actually teach their child how to grow up and face life.

    Human beings are basically just animals with intelligence. What does that mean? We still have the basic learning behaviors that all animals do. By basic, I mean BASIC. No facial expression recognizing, no communication issues.... If you throw a tantrum, you'll get smacked. Any animal that experiences pain KNOWS that pain is bad and will always associate pain with bad behavior or a mistaken action. It really sounds like I'm advocating beating your child, but damn, if my child is learning less about their behavior than my puppy is, then it's not the child's fault, it's mine.

    March 27, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • DocRock

      Do you know what "autistic" means?

      March 27, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Molly

      No, you're not autistic because you don't understand that. In fact, if you know anyone who is autistic you would know that you're wrong. A child whose brain takes in everything and is constantly analyzing thousands of details and minute information can be so thrown off by a thing like their food looking different that they can't eat it no matter how hungry they are.

      March 27, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
      • Well

        Then that child doesn't eat. If my child were picky about something in particular, like a specific food item (let's say, cheese on a burger, because I myself hate cheese with a passion) then I would understand and have it prepared specially without the item, no big deal. I can understand that all people, including children, have food preferences. But that the burger is cut in half, that's the reason she won't eat it? What visual overload is there to a cut burger? That is pickiness that I will not stand for if that was my child, and that no parent should stand for in theirs, because it is teaching bad behavior.

        March 27, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
        • Heather

          You know nothing of autism, then, and I am actually ashamed of you as a human being.

          March 28, 2013 at 12:38 am |
        • Roscoe Chait

          It seems that you missed the point of the story: treat everyone in every circumstance with compassion and understanding. What a joyful world that would be. Compassion means looking outside yourself, at other human beings, identifying with their problems and suffering. Instead of focusing on yourself, maybe you could for a moment step outside and recognize the love and pain in other humans.

          March 28, 2013 at 11:04 am |
        • Kyle

          You sound like my father. My little bro has Autism and my dad tried to control every single thing he did. This obviously lead to more meltdowns and more tantrum that lead to my little brother hitting himself. Any empathic human being would realize that pickiness doesn't matter when you have a 12 year old boy that is almost six feet tall about to hit himself in the head repeatedly just because something so tiny as a burger being cut in half. It not about understanding children with autism it is about accepting them for who they are because if we sit here and debate that we should sterilize them because of overpopulation or deny that they are different from other is not accepting them for who they are. I am the brtherr of a 17 year old boy with autism and I have seen first hand the magic and excitement and intelligence of children with autism as well as the tantrums, hitting, and screaming. A word to the ignorant, open your minds and your hearts for you need to let something in the dark depressed socially hating vessel that are your minds for hate in this word gets you no where. As as shown by this article compassion and love make the world go round.

          March 28, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
        • Sarah Mangan

          Your parents obviously did not do their job,you are ill-mannered.If this family had been aware of the policy of cutting childrens burgers in half they would have known to order it that way,however even had they forgotten it would still be less of an imposition to correct for a child with a problem than your way of dealing with it would have been. I do hope you are not a parent I would not want the lack of parenting skills in your family to be passed on. The chain of cruelty should end with you.

          March 29, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Perival Sweetwater

      And now demonstrating what a douchwithnocompassion looks like, Wall.

      March 28, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Wowsers

      I really cant believe some of the comments people are writing on here, years ago there was no autism, you people with negative comments make me want to gouge my eyes out DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT AUTISM IS!!!! AHHHHHH im gonna hope and wish all day that you do some research on autism and then look back on your comment like "wow" im a flaming moron

      March 28, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Craftyman71

      You are a moron. Please don't waste everyone's time commenting on something you know nothing about. I really hope you don't reproduce.

      March 28, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Kelly

      You are clearly ignorant ( meaning you lack knowledge) of the characteristics and behaviors of an individual with autism.

      March 28, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Sean MacNair

      Dear Well;

      F uck you. Looks like I have two a sses to kick- yours and Cold Truth. Elyria is waiting.

      March 28, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Steve

      Well, you are not autistic, just ignorant.

      March 28, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • sunny

      Please tell me you DON'T have any children. I think we'd all pitch in to pay for you to get spayed or neutered.

      April 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • Bob

      Well, you seem to have your own type of learning disability. I'd be happy to smack you, if you think it would help.

      April 2, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  18. Think.AndCare_aboutYour_Baby

    How DARE this family think they have special privilage because of their retarded child.I think that Chilies should have stuck with their policiy,and if that kid didnt want it,well,then go away.

    March 27, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • Molly

      1. Read the article. They didn't ask for any special treatment. They would have paid for the extra burger.
      2. Autistic does not mean retarded. Anyone with a basic understanding of autism knows this.
      3. Next time consider actually reading the article on which you are commenting and/or educating yourself about the issues involved before you make a total jerk of yourself online.

      March 27, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • Medallon

      Trolling, trolling, trolling, away...................

      March 27, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Al

      Wow – talk about ignorance in action there, THINK. Oh wait, you didn't (or can't) think. What do you think we should do, lock up all those who have autism, ADD/ADHD, etc. in an asylum or something? What an idiot. People (like you) fail to recognize that autism and other related mental disabilities (yes ADD/ADHD is listed as such) is not something new. It's only been through science that we've discovered how the brain works, and in what ways it works. As the brain is often compared to a computer, an autistic's brain simply uses a different operating system than yours. That being said, live with it, because it's hear to stay, you insensitive jerk.

      March 28, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Ann

      RETARDED! The word retard(ed) hurts millions of people with intellectual disabilities and their family and friends! Promote the new R word which is RESPECT!!!!!!!!

      March 28, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Sean MacNair

      Wow. It must be a ssholes on parade day or something.

      March 28, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Liz

      RETARDED?! It's too bad your mother reproduced and had YOU. My eight year old daughter has mild autism. She is reading 5th grade level books and beating the computer at chess...HARDLY RETARDED. Why don't you go educate yourself?! (and, if you won't, then go **** yourself then).

      March 28, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Bob

      Think.AndCare_aboutYour_Baby: Clearly, thinking would be a totally NEW experience for you. Good luck should you ever choose to try it.

      April 2, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  19. Mom and Teacher

    Wow, the ignorance in some of these comments never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps this cheeseburger caused her a great deal of distress and anxiety. It's not for us to judge- have you ever had a panic attack or anxiety? Have you ever felt so out of control in your life that what little you could control meant the world? Don't judge until you've been there. Ignorance is why I will always worry about MY son- I don't worry about his behaviors but the callousness and coldness of others who have no understanding.

    March 27, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • ...

      But why the hell is a 7-year old going to feel so out of control in their life that what little they could control meant the world, but NOT feel that they should just stop being a brat and eat the burger? I don't believe they think EITHER of these things when a tantrum happens, they're just pissed because they're not getting what they want and they know their parents will give it to them if they whine about it. Is it really autism, or is it just bad parenting?

      March 27, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
      • Elaine

        Wow....aren't you the smart one? NOT. You must be in charge of the DoD budget.

        March 28, 2013 at 9:16 am |
      • Sean MacNair

        You know nothing about autism then.

        March 28, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
        • Bob

          I think you are giving that person too much credit. I doubt he/she knows anything about anything.

          April 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  20. Lizi

    This is a great story – and a perfect example of how a little thought, patience and compassion can make such a difference to someone's world. If only I'd had a similar experience when I took my autistic son into Toys R Us a few months ago ... You can read what happened on my blog:

    March 27, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  21. Gia

    Having grown up in a place where food was a quasi-luxury, I'm really curious what would've happened had the kid not been catered to in this situation. You get hungry enough, you'll eat. A burger – broken, whole, whatever – anything. As Drew commented above, this kid, special or not, will grow up, and will be woefully unprepared for a world that won't stop spinning when 'their burger's broken'.

    March 27, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • MondoH

      The parents reaction is wrong, because they weren't themselves autistic as children.

      If they were, they'd handle this better.

      We didn't diagnose anyone as autistic when I was a child – but right or wrong, I see myself in these behavior, my own logic as a child

      With my children I have this strategy-s – they can have their feelings – thats OK.
      As long as they aren't starving, they don't have to eat either – thats OK.

      If I can avoid a trigger point, of course I do. But if I can't, the child is never, I repeat never placed in charge.
      They are allowed to cry, but not allowed to get another hamburger. Kids might skip one meal, I've never had one skip two.

      They are far from starving if they skip one meal. As far as crying goes – they tire of crying too, if you are in the habit of letting them cry it out. The reactions get muted a lot faster than these enabling parents realize.

      But that doesn't change your personality. It's real, and they'll be special for a long time – some autistic children also have learning disabilities, but some are very smart. I regard it as special, not in a patronizing way, but truly special.

      March 27, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Rick Jones

      Back in my day, you ate what was given to you. If you did not you went hungry, regardless of whether or not you were retarded.

      March 27, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
      • bpizzle

        really? you must have outgrown your retardedness bc that's the most idiotic thing ive ever heard. Children did not suffere from these diseases when you were a child. Maybe if you put ur feet in these parents shoes for one minute you'd realize its a little different then your normal situation where your child is just a brat bc u suck at matter what you do you cant change an autistic childs mind. sadly i think these autistic children could make better decisions then half the people on here commenting.

        March 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
        • shawn l

          Since when was autism a new "disease". It's been around for as long as humanity has been around.

          March 27, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
      • Medallon

        Easy, these guys are trolls, just trying to get a rise. They can be that 1d10t1c, I mean really, that would make them really base uneducated tools.

        March 27, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
        • Gia

          Not looking to get a rise out of anyone, M. This isn't a matter of lack of compassion... Let's reserve compassion for what it's called for: the kid who's battling cancer, the one who's abused, a homeless vet, orphans – you get the idea. A kid who won't eat a burger is simply not hungry enough to eat it right that instant, and people should not feel compelled to cater to her – special snowflake status notwithstanding. Matter of fact, I do have compassion for her, just not for now – for later. Later, when incompetent parenting (aunting? :-P) will have created an individual who can't manage very well, because the world isn't falling over itself to accommodate her every whim.

          March 27, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • bpizzle

      what would have happened is the child would start screaming at the top of their lungs causing a scene and maybe even becoming violent and hitting the parents. I know because my brother is autistic. i agree children these days are spoiled rotten and get everything they want, but an autistic child is not your normal child. You can't always say no to them because they are so routine oriented. Anything out of routine will set the child off into a rage you never experienced. Autism didnt exist years ago thats why we have so many ignorant people who cant take a second out of their day to even imagine what parents of autistic children have to go through every day

      March 27, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
      • Mom and Teacher

        I hope my youngest son, and brother to a child withAutism, will always stand up for what's right like you.

        March 27, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
      • shawn l

        Apparently you are ignorant. I think you are probably a young person so I will enlighten you. Autism has existed since humans have existed. It is not a "new disease". We are however, over diagnosing autism "spectrum" disorders.

        March 27, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
        • Truthiness???

          You've said this more than once on this thread, Shawn. It seems modern medical science disagrees with you. Could you explain the discrepancy?

          March 27, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
        • shawn l

          Just because something gets hit with a label does not mean it didn't exist before that. Considering the first person to use the term autism was Eugen Bleuler in 1911 and he used it to to refer to one group of symptoms of schizophrenia. It wasnt until the 1940s, that researchers in the United States began to use the term "autism" to describe children with emotional or social problems. Leo Kanner, a doctor from Johns Hopkins University, used it to describe the withdrawn behavior of several children he studied. At about the same time, Hans Asperger, a scientist in Germany, identified a similar condition that’s now called Asperger’s syndrome.

          Depression wasn't labeled that until recent times, does that mean no human being experienced depression just because there wasn't a label for it? AD/HD, the same exact thing.

          March 28, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • Slam

      You are making a common mistake to those with little experience of mental illness; you are attempting to apply a rational solution to a person who does not see the world 'rationally' as we do. My oldest son is autistic, when he was three (before he was diagnosed) he developed food aversions and his pediatrician said what you did 'If a kid gets hungry enough, they eat.' Except kids with mental illness might not. My son's BMI plummeted until it was literally off the charts for his age. We were supplementing with ensure, and he still was emaciated. I fail to see what the cause for indignation is here. The staff at the restaurant were compassionate, and because of their reactions were able to assist in staving off a reaction that could have been much more unpleasant for everyone involved.

      April 2, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
  22. JCS

    The waitress should have brought a roll of duct tape and told the sister to stop that damn cracker kid from crying.
    But seriously, kudos to the waitress for not being a c**t to a crying little girl. It's rarely heard of these days.

    March 27, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Puckles


      March 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • TRACY

      loser. I cannot believe someone would say that. TTL Loser u are. I pray you never have to deal w/an autistic or disabled child. People like you make it hard for disabled children in this world.

      March 27, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Getreal

      be nice

      March 27, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
  23. Patrick

    I have two boys with Autism, My oldest now fits in a high functioning category while my youngest still does not speak. With that framed I have had my fair share of the stares... the looks... You know what I mean. For a parent your heart feels two things.. One you wish the person staring could just have compassion and understanding.. Perhaps help.. or offer a kind word. The other part of my heart wants to slap you for being inconsiderate and rude with your staring.

    Through the years my wife and I have met some kind people though so take heart parents.. there is still some humanity left out there. Even recently we were shopping for food (which I hope is still allowed by some of the commenters) and my youngest was startting to have a meltdown. This was happening as we were in the check out line.. OUT CAME THE STARES! At this point I just learning to ignore them and focus on my son while my wife and I check out. My boys is having a real rough time though and now I hear the murmuring.

    I was getting ready to give a few stares of my on at this time when out of the blue a soft hand of a stranger grabs my arm and tells my wife and I.. "ignore them... do you ned help with checking out... after all we parents need to help each other out"

    I dont get that often.. but when we do we cherish and become thankful for those moments and can be comforted in the fact that indeed there is kindness left in the world.

    March 27, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  24. nestupin

    I work in education administration and autism is one of the hottest topics in my field. I provide a service to teachers who come into our offices daily. They are our primary customers, so great customer service is also important to me which is why this story was so attractive to me. In our office, we have special education classrooms so we see the children on a daily basis. I call them children, but they can age up to their early twenties. Most of them have developmental disabilities, so have physical disabilities, but NONE of them have disabilities when it comes to their hearts. While most of us in the office don't work with them (we leave that to their teachers and aides) we are quite protective of them as they are the light of our office.

    I applaud Chilis for allowing their managers and staff the flexibility to create the best experiences for their customers. Working with the public is a hard job, and I find that making some kind of connection with your customers is what makes them remember you and Lauren and Brad made that connection with the smallest of customers. It's a connection like that that brings the customers back.

    With any children, they want to feel like they matter. As adults we often talk solely to other adults to push the conversation along and not realize that there are eyes and ears and ideas that are down low just waiting to be paid attention to. Brad and Lauren, realizing that their young patron was upset, got down to her level to understand what was wrong and what she wanted and did what was within their power to fix it. Kudos to them.

    In reading many of the comments that came after the article, it saddens me that autism is still a difficult disability for the public to understand. The spectrum is so large, people are so uneducated in the disability and that gap is still widening.

    My first bit of advice is one that was taught in our office, and that is regarding the person before the disability. Autism (or any disability for that matter) isn't who these children are, it's merely a part of what makes them up. They aren't an autistic child. They are a child with autism. Just like they are a child that's a great little brother and a child that hates broccoli and a child that loves art and math in school. They are a child with autism. I'm not making their disability into something smaller, please don't get me wrong. Just understand that the disability isn't all of who they are.

    I too, am glad she got her not-broken cheeseburger. I have a feeling she'll be getting more of them from Brad and Lauren at Chilis...and I think that next time, it won't ever be broken again.

    March 27, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Father of 2

      The problem isn't people (well at least people who have an understanding of how kids "work") being able to have some understanding of a situation, the problem is the parents of the child taking ANYTHING that isn't "let your child throw the tantrum, people will understand they have autism" as an attack.

      Of course a child is a child it's the parents of the autistic person who think they should be treated differently (from a parent without a child with autism) because their child isn't "normal" and is just throwing a tantrum because they didn't get what they wanted.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
      • abby

        The difference is that they don't throw tantrums because they don't get what they want, they throw them because they're over stimulated. They don't have the capability to know they're doing anything wrong, they just know they feel bad and overwhelmed. They don't know how to handle it so they have a meltdown. Don't forget the ones that can't communicate. If you were say three years old and couldn't talk and you felt overwhelmed what would you do? There misbehavior is not intentional. Their sensory input is a lot more sensitive then an NT's, and sometimes they can't handle it especially those on the lower spectrum.

        March 27, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
        • sunny

          Well said Abby. Perfect description.

          April 2, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  25. Applied Grad

    This is why I hire college grads for server/bartender work in my restaurant. I also own a construction company, and my partners and I will only hire people with engineering degrees to pour concrete and handle the framing etc. The underemployed give my companies a stellar appearance to my customers, and while they may never pay off their loans, my employees fill in the gaps of poor training with their own expensive education. It is win-win.

    March 27, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • D Palmer

      While it is a win of sorts that your employees have jobs, I don't think it really qualifies as a "win-win" situation when said employment doesn't pay well enough to make a material dent in student loans.

      I also think your basic logic is faulty as there are many non-degreed professional servers and construction workers who are very smart and whose experience and professionalism when dealing with customers will engance your businesses reputation.

      March 27, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Ronald McDonald

      +1 for a successful troll

      March 27, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
      • Truthiness???

        Troll was unsuccessful as the only response was civil, thoughtful and polite.

        -1 for OP, and -1 for you for failing to understand what trolling is, and as evident in my civil response to your stupidity, failing to troll properly yourself.

        March 27, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  26. Dood

    LOL! This story is great. We also have a 7 year old autistic son, Ethan. Here's the odd thing. He calls hamburgers "Krabby Patties" too. AND, if it's cut in half he would not eat it, either.

    Hey Adrianna, I have a future husband for you when you're old enough! You and Ethan can eat Krabby Patties and grow old together!

    March 27, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  27. mike

    this is sooooo funyy lol

    March 27, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • mike

      why didnt they tell her they cut it in half......?? duh

      March 27, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
      • LostinSLC

        She wanted a whole burger, not a broken one.....get it?

        March 27, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
      • Marie Edmister

        Because "DUH", she wouldn't have understood that idiot!

        March 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  28. Seebs

    Not a huge fan of the "person with autism" language. Try replacing "woman" with "person with femaleness" to see why... This is not a thing I have, it is who I am. You might prefer that I not exist and that someone else exist instead of me, but I am understandably unconvinced.

    March 27, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • Judge Judy

      It's always about you isn't it?

      March 27, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • krj9

      Who cares what your a fan of. Go away

      March 27, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • mbschoolpsych

      Actually, "child with autism" is the correct way to describe Arianna. She is more than her diagnosis.

      March 27, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
      • Anonymous

        Yeah, and a woman is more than her gender and a fireman (oops – Firefighter!) does other things with his life after he puts down the hose. But playing sensitivity tag and acting like we have to throw out the notion of using any noun other than "person" with modifiers tacked on to describe somebody, lest we somehow trample their humanity, is touchy-feely bunk. People don't need to be coddled – we're not toddlers (sorry – "people with few past birthdays").
        It's also very counter-productive – If you refuse to call a person with autism "autistic" because you believe it's offensive to do so, aren't you the one suggesting that it's something they should be ashamed of? If you go out of your way to say "Person with X" instead of "X", do you not suggest that "X", as a characteristic, is detracting from their humanity such that you need to throw on "Person with-" to reaffirm it?

        This nonsense has got to stop. I'm starting to think we're the ones with a wire off in our brains - for all her crying about a "broken burger", I'll bet even this girl isn't so particular that she'll grow up and start picking apart parts of speech looking for something to be offended by. Give me a break, brother.

        March 27, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
        • Anonymous

          *not all toddlers

          March 27, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
        • dp

          Yes, being offended, playing the victim. It is very powerful.

          March 17, 2014 at 7:21 pm |
    • Tommy

      Yes Person with Autism is the proper way to refer to someone with autism. You wouldn't call someone with cancer a cancerous person.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
      • John

        are you saying autism is a disease?

        April 2, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  29. Autism Mom

    My 17-yo daughter was diagnosed w/ autism when she was two. In the early years, there were MANY times we left a restaurant w/ our tails between our legs because she had a meltdown – parents w/ an autistic child learn quickly not to make eye contact w/ those around us in these situations because we know we would see only reproach and disgust.

    One time recently we were seated adjacent to a family where one child seemed to have a learning disability. His behavior spiraled out of control, and eventually the family left (before finishing dinner), leaving the mom at the table waiting to pay the check. I approached her and told her of our own experiences when Lauren was younger, and told her to KEEP GOING OUT, the reactions they dealt with were the result of ignorance – they had every right to experience a normal life as a family, and that it WOULD get better.. She broke down and wept, having never had a kind word after a situation like that. But she had a smile on her face when she left and was no longer feeling ashamed for her son.

    If you're the one staring at an unruly child – please give them the benefit of the doubt and don't make judgments when you don't have the full story.

    March 27, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Autumn

      Your short story just brought tears to my eyes. how nice of you to give some encouraging words to the mother. The world needs more people like you in it :)

      March 27, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • BD70

      My grandson was diagnosed autistic last october. He was 2 in July. He is getting the help he needs and shows vast improvement. But he to had meltdowns in certain situations. My daughter and her husband had to leave wherever they were. I am sure some thought him spoiled and a brat.

      March 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Blumeanie

      Sorry to disagree. People who are paying for a meal, obviously are paying for the "pleasure of going out", not the burger, which they could cook themselves at home. If your child isnt ready to comport themselves in public, screams and throws theselves on the floor, that is not the patrons fault and they have every right to be upset; NOT at the child but at the parent who put the child in a situation they arent ready for.

      March 27, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
      • Father of 2

        It's nice to see someone with brains on here.

        March 27, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
      • ann

        And how to you propose a child learn to handle these situations if they must be kept away from all eating establishments?!?. Everyone knows that certain restaurants are family establishments. If you don't like dealing with families & children than maybe you should be kept at home until you can learn to comport yourself in a compassionate and empathic manner.

        March 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
        • Well

          I must be autistic myself, because I simply don't understand why these children need to be so pampered. If your child really is hungry, they will eat. If this were my child, autistic or not, she would've eaten the food or we would have simply left and she would not eat anything. Today's parents are so willing to defend their child's "illness" and get sympathy from every news outlet in the country, but they are so unwilling to actually buckle down and actually teach their child how to grow up and face life.

          Human beings are basically just animals with intelligence. What does that mean? We still have the basic learning behaviors that all animals do. By basic, I mean BASIC. No facial expression recognizing, no communication issues.... If you throw a tantrum, you'll get smacked. Any animal that experiences pain KNOWS that pain is bad and will always associate pain with bad behavior or a mistaken action. It really sounds like I'm advocating beating your child, but damn, if my child is learning less about their behavior than my puppy is, then it's not the child's fault, it's mine.

          March 27, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
        • BRB

          You are full of crap. I don't pay good money at a restaurant to be part of a training class for autistic behavior issues. I know a couple of families with autistic kids and the parents are as wacky as the kids. They should have never had children.

          March 28, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Verry Nice

      You are AWSOME good for you that was so NICE

      March 27, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • Father of 2

      So, what you are saying is that you should feel no sympathy for others if your child is causing a disturbance BECAUSE they have autism or some other disorder that causes outbursts?

      Again, I never told anyone to "stay indoors" all their life while raising the child but simply feeling you should be excused of tantrums BECAUSE the person causing the disturbance has autism is silly.

      Absolutely, keep going out and trying to live a normal life but don't let your child (autism or otherwise) disturb the rest of the store.

      The whole autism card is as good as the race card. It's almost as if "please don't look at my child having a random outburst, if they were "normal" they wouldn't do this, but they have a disorder therefore they should be allowed to".

      March 27, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
      • puddykat

        Clearly you have very little to no understanding of Autism. The way we interpret and experience our world is through our five senses. A child with Autism does not experience those senses in the same way as an average human being. Where you might touch something and label it as course fabric and move on an autistic person may feel pain from that fabric. Sounds, sights, tastes can easily overwhelm a person with Autism. Calming child with Autism in the midst of a fit is quite different from calming a normal child. You can't reprimand, lecture, yell or even touch to sooth sometimes as that only adds to their overwhelmed sensory system. Some of them don't have the capacity to express what they are feeling as they are non verbal. Its not "oh they have autism therefore they should be allowed to behave this way" its that they CANNOT interact with their environment the same way as an average child. Children act up even when perfectly healthy and normal now throw autism over the normal young child logic and reactions and it makes it infinitely more complicated.

        March 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
      • Anna

        I think you missed the point. Good job.

        March 27, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
        • puddykat

          What point exactly did I miss?

          March 27, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
      • ann

        So if one of your two children had autism then you would keep them home like you were embarrassed of them? You do realize that a lot of places are family friendly and it doesn't hurt anyone to have a little understanding and compassion. Not to mention that with enough practice in these settings a child can learn. How are they going to learn while at home?!? Last time I checked a family establishments tend to be noisy places anyway.

        March 27, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
      • dp

        I agree.People want special privileges and try to get them any way they can. What happened to people that they think they can disturb others and others have to take it?
        It just seems like people want to indulge these kids, say they "can't" be better than they are. What horribly low expectations to have and to me, that is abuse to label them.

        March 17, 2014 at 7:24 pm |
  30. Big Bird Johnson

    Why should my tax dollars pay for her?

    March 27, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • common sense

      Who says your tax dollars are paying for her? This was a nice story about a decent waitress, nothing more. Even if she gets special education services through her school district or qualifies for medicaid so what? Would you rather her not get any assistance now and end up fully disabled as an adult later? With the right help and services she may go on to college and to a full-time job. My tax dollars pay for smokers medical bills and that's a choice those individuals made – autism is not a choice. No parent wakes up and says "god, I really hope I have a child with a disability so I can rip off tax payers" My tax dollars support people with type 2 diabetes who for many could make a diet/lifestyle change to reverse their condition – again another choice. My tax dollars support all kinds of things that are the result of someone's choice. Autism however, is not a choice.

      March 27, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Joshua

      The last time I checked, Chiles was not a government institution.

      March 27, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • NireCeleste

      What a disgusting comment. You obviously have no understanding or experience with schools, education, children with disabilities or special education AND a complete lack of compassion.

      March 27, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • JLS


      March 27, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • krj9

      He's just trying to play with emotions and looking to see how many responses he can get. Ignore him

      March 27, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • BD70

      You are so selfish.

      March 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • dp

      They think you should like the "nice story" and put up with nonsense when you pay to go out to eat.So much for ambience and atmosphere anymore. That $30 dollar steak is cheaper at home.

      March 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm |
  31. Grits

    Not only is this a great story about human nature, it is also a great story about great customer service and a great business decision. (Yes, I realize that I used the word great 4 times in the previous sentence for effect.) This family will return to Chili's; another family mentioned their experience with Pizza Hut and their plans to only buy their pizzas from Pizza Hut. Our Special Olympics swim team members range in age from 10-40 so when we go to a movie and then get something to eat, the family members (drivers) usually sit together while allowing the athletes to sit at other tables as a group and just "hang out". At our first visit to a Steak & Shake near the theater, the manager was walking around the dining room asking patrons about their meals, etc. The moment he stopped at their tables to ask them how they were instead of just passing by them, I knew we'd be coming back. And we have again and again.

    March 27, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  32. D Sniadoski

    So the girl likes to growl when she eats. that's not an autism thing, that's a kid thing! :-)

    Cute story, btw.

    March 27, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Julie

      I am not Autistic or a kid and I growl sometimes when I eat! LOL Its very low but when I am particularly enjoying something I growl.... my youngest son does it too, he's 19.... I don't think thats strange at all heheh

      March 27, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  33. Um

    I don't really get having to make a point of calling out people who choose to switch seats away from your noisy kid in a restaurant as BOO HOO THEY DONT UNDERSTAND.

    You can understand a disorder just fine and still quietly be asked to be reseated elsewhere. In fact that's the most polite way to handle the situation.

    March 27, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • J

      Right?? While I can certainly understand that the families of autistic children may have their struggles, that still doesn't mean I want to hear screaming and tantrums when I'm trying to eat my own dinner.

      There's a distinct difference between standing up and loudly proclaiming, "GET ME AWAY FROM THAT HELLISH CHILD!" and simply asking to be moved to another area that suits your needs better. After all, if the family of the child is seeking understanding, why doesn't that courtesy extend to others as well? Please understand that others have needs too.

      March 28, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • dp

      Well, it shows what they really want is sympathy and attention. You aren't being sympathetic! As if we can be sympathetic to everyone.
      So when people move away, they dislike that too. Why don't they leave others alone?

      March 17, 2014 at 7:30 pm |
  34. Sailorgary

    Having an 11 yr old son with middle of the road Autism (he can talk, but is in specific Autism Strategies class at school), I truly understand the pains that parents of children that are on the spectrum. It hurts my heart many times when I see him struggling or his misunderstanding. My son will more than likely always have to live with me, and I am ok with that. Ignorant people that do not understand the struggles that these children go through (especially the ones lower on the spectrum). I know a couple that had twin 14 yr olds and both were on the spectrum, one was Aspergers, and the other couldnt speak and walked around all day in a diaper. People that are not involved on a daily basis with children on the spectrum truly do not understand the struggles.

    March 27, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  35. Oleg

    That's exactly how regular kids behave as well, adults in general should lighten up and show maturity in such situations.

    March 27, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  36. Andrew

    this story is very sweet. I was depressed and tired, but after reading this story I had a smile on my face. Employees and manager of that restaurant are terrific!!!

    March 27, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  37. James A.

    This is a touching story, but unfortunately, good stories of humanity also draw out the sick elements of our society, as evidenced by some of the comments on this thread.

    Since we live in America, we know two things for sure:

    1. We have lots Hateful People, and
    2. Lots and lots of Guns

    So, here is my advice to families with autistic children, preparing to eat in public:

    Take full advantage of all of the wonderful freedoms that our Constitution allows.
    All of you should carry fully loaded assault rifles into the restaurant, equipped with 100 round magazines and laser sights.
    When another patron frowns at you for any reason, shine one of those lasers directly into one of their pupils and they will stop looking at you.

    March 27, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • pat rymer

      i hope you never produce children of your own.. but if you do.. i hope they have autism so you can choke on your own words stupid head

      March 27, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
      • Vonda

        I hope you never reproduce and create people who think the original posters message was anything but a huge joke. It's amazing how humorless and dense people are.

        March 27, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Allen

      You are a shining example of an opponent of legal gun ownership stu pidity. What has an assualt weapon have to do with this story? It seems that YOU have a problem with them. I would argue that society would be better off if we limited your ability to own firearms, as you are clearly deranged.

      March 27, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
      • mistamista

        Please go away. Responding to a nut with your own brand of crazy just exacerbates the offense.

        March 27, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
      • Chris

        You are so foolish as to not see he is trying to be offensive and make firearms and their owners look crazy? He's a nutcase, just as crazy as the worst ones on the other side of the debate.

        March 27, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • Garry

      The world would truly be a better place without you.

      March 27, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Howhmatt

      Did you think this up all by-yourself......James there are two types of people as you said....
      1. Those who learn from the story
      2. Those like you

      March 27, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Chris

      James A: That statement is so stupid and irresponsible that is clearly "trolling" for the anti-gun crowd, to make firearms owners look like they are all nutcases.

      Clearly this is how you feel, and you have the right to feel that way, though I disagree with you. But you don't have the right to pretend to be a jerk on the other side of the debate just to make them look bad.

      And why must you pollute all discussions with your hate? This is a sweet story, go away and leave it alone.

      March 27, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  38. KJ

    What a fun story! Children are blessings no matter what issues they are dealing with...I wish everyone had the attitude the server did...frankly, we could learn a lot about life from kids!!

    March 27, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  39. Father of 2

    Ok, so I understand the whole "you can't control it" aspect, and I don't particularly leave or ask to move tables if a kid is making a scene, but there does come a point I have the common courtesy to leave a restaurant if either my 5 or 3 year old decide to throw a fit for one reason or another.

    I'm not saying that parents of an autistic child should never leave the house with their child, but you should absolutely "deal" with the problem by either stopping them (I understand it's not a simple matter of "stopping' if your child has a disorder) or have the common courtesy to leave.

    Granted I've never (thankfully) had to deal with a child with a disorder outside of severe allergies/asthma but I mean, really? Why WOULDN'T you leave?

    March 27, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • se

      You are such a D bag. I feel sorry for your children if you actually have any

      March 27, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Brittany

      I feel that you should talk to a parent with autism and ask them why this is not so easy. Autism meltdowns happen without notice and often the triggers are not easily identified. Learning more about the condition may provide more opportunity for you to understand.

      March 27, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • pat rymer

      oh jesus you did that you've done a disservice to the world, you should really educate yourself.. but if i spent all day tryin to understand small mined ignorant people i wouldnt have time for my autistic son.. who by the way is smarter than both of your children put together..

      March 27, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • Sailorgary

      You are speaking from a PURELY SELFISH point of view.......and are ASSuming your night out is more important than a child with Autism. I would love to punch you in the face!

      March 27, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • Father of 3 .... 1 with autism

      You're a moron !!!

      March 27, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • jennifer aguilar

      I am so personally offended by the ignorance you spew it makes me physically ill. 'would you have them go to f#$% sanitariums or what. I think comments like yours should be removed. Why do I even read this crap. And people, there are a whole lot of things out there besides autism, educate yourselves.

      March 27, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
      • Mom of a autistic boy

        I got really mad when I read his comment too. He needs to educate himself ppl like that is what makes me hurt

        March 27, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Peter

      Of course, none of you below telling this guy what to go do with himself even addressed his point: Why wouldn't you leave? Oh, that's right, you people really don't care about other people because it's so tough for you. Karma ;)

      March 27, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • deadbeef

      You're absolutely right. I have a child who was very much like the little girl in this story and who had an autism dx. I can't tell you how many times my wife and I had to eat in shifts at restaurants while the other parent was walking around outside with our son waiting for the tantrum to blow over. Over the years of school, sports, activities, birthday parties, etc., my son frequently would not behave appropriately in various situations. We would always make him take responsibility for his behavior. It wasn't always easy, and improvement was slow, but we never let him get away with bad behavior because "he can't help it". I'm proud that we never played the "Autism Card".

      March 27, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • RAKs Daddy

      Wow! You are completely ignorant, and a bunch of other words my daddy taught me I shouldn't use in public. Nothing like having a modicum of compassion for what parents (or sisters, in this case) go through just for semblance of normalcy. If you don't understand what is going on - and it is plainly apparent that you don't - please, just keep your commentary to yourself. Or better yet, use the 5 minutes that it took you to compose such a ridiculous comment to learn more about your inability to comprehend anyone not as perfect as you or your children. It must do your heart good that you are teaching your kids to be intolerant, huh, Father of 2.

      March 27, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • jb

      I do not think there is any shame in leaving the situation, whether it's the other patrons or the family having an issue.

      I do think that our society in general should really be more relaxed and tolerant. Kids will have some tantrums, that's OK, give the parents a break and then in the same way we are teaching tolerance to those kids and our own kids.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • Tommy

      As a family member of someone with Autism and an individual who researches Autism therapies and works extensively with individuals with autism I really don't see any reason to get offended at his post. Sure he doesn't understand the hardship of living with someone with autism but he does raise the point that, as caretakers of individuals of Autism, we do have a responsibility to society and those with whom we interact in our environment. The whole world shouldn't bend to us just because someone we love has a diagnosis of Autism. I think both sides of this argument have a responsibility to be understanding of the point of view of the other and owe each other respect in these situations. If that means ending a night early because of a tantrum then so be it.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Father of 2

      Love the replies I got. Nice to see you can get people really worked up while not even attacking them.

      The point is that if your kids (mine too, no autism, lol@the "smarter than your 2 kids" comment, cute) are deciding to throw a tantrum in a store/restaurant you either calm them down or show some consideration for fellow patrons and remove the disturbance from the place. I've done it before.

      I think you people feel so high and mighty and "proud" to have an autistic child you only see words that could be construed as an attack to your family when I did nothing of the sort.

      I flat out said I don't have a problems with kids throwing a fit, I don't ask to be moved, I don't ask the waiter to tell the parents to calm the kid down or anything. What I'm saying is that >YOU< as a parent should have the common courtesy of not staying in that situation and removing the problem from it. That goes for non-autistic children too.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
      • J

        It's really VERY simple - the parents of children with autism expect others to have understanding and compassion for them, but sometimes don't seem to have it for others. For instance, yes, you have the right to enjoy a meal in a restaurant, but so does the next person. While Mr. and Mrs. Jones in the next booth may indeed understand your child has special needs and sympathize, that doesn't mean they should just grit their teeth and end up leaving the restaurant with migraines. If there is an empty booth elsewhere in the restaurant, by all means, let them ask to be moved to it.

        Just like everything else in life, it's a two-way street. The things you want, you should also bestow upon others. No one is "more special" or "more deserving" than anyone else.

        March 28, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  40. Drew

    Speaking as one of those kids given the autistic/assburgers label when I was younger I think that this is kind out of hand. We're trying to handle this kids like the rules don't apply to them, which was done to me. I was even offered disability but rejected it because the truth is, I never really thought I had a problem and the truth is, I think if there ever was one it was just that I was kind of a little punk as a youngster.

    Deciding not to live a life of being a permanent manchild, I joined the army infantry, dealt with it and all the hazing/unpleasantness that came with it and it sucked; when I was younger, I'd been given free reign to be a precious little snowflake who the rules didn't apply towards, and getting a crash course in it in an environment akin to a violent fraternity was definetly a challenge, but it wasn't impossible by any means.

    In summary, parents, you need to think about the long term; is your kid inoperable in the sense that they CANNOT function, or is it just going to take the kid having ten or twenty broken burgers and not being given other food before they realize that they can in fact eat the "broken" burger. All kids throw tantrums and honestly every kid fits the criteria for at least one of the ten million emotional or mental disorders invented by the psudo-science of pyschology. It is easier for you to embrace it and change the world to suit them, but it isn't the best thing because they will never become functioning adults.

    As of now, I'm still weird, but I pay my own bills, work, and have a plan to take care of myself that involves me working to make myself work in the world rather than creating a false environment where everything is suited to my particular tastes and preferences. People will be offended by this, but they need to read it.

    March 27, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • LeeBee

      Very interesting point and I’m sure it has validity in some cases, but not all. Kudos to you, for taking charge of your own life and recognizing your own strengths and abilities.

      March 27, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Dee Dee

      I'm glad that you have been able to 'pull yourself up' by your own boot straps. My son and other kids I know are on the spectrum. They are all on what is called the 'high functioning' side of the spectrum. They are maturing differently and are able to blend in will with other teens. They are still quirky and dealing with sorting out emotional stuff, but they are average in other ways. My son went from unable to play ball or any sort of sport (he feared the ball and had limited coordination skills) to becoming a great tennis player in high school. It almost happened overnight. Something 'clicked'. I have a feeling that you may have been diagnosed and were lucky to have moved on. I've heard of other young people on the spectrum join the military and not be as successful, yet others did great with the structure. All the best on your life.

      March 27, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • conrad

      I'm not at all offended by what you've said. As a parent of children who do not have autism, I've experienced plenty of melt-downs over various things. I often think to myself that as a society/culture we simply have too much stuff, food, availability of all forms of pleasure that we lost touch with and true sense of gratitude and appreciation. I don't want to cultivate greed and the associated longing and never feel satisfied that comes with it in my children. An recent example was that my daugther wanted some oreo cookies. I gave her 3, which actually seemed like a lot for a 3 year old, but she wanted me to fill up her little bow with 'lot's' of cookies and when I refused she threw the 3 she had on the floor and screamed and stomped her feet wildly. The easy thing would of course be to end the tantrum by giving her more cookies, but I stood firm and kindly/quietly allowed her to play out her tantrum as long as she pleased telling her simply that she get's 3 cookies and it's her choice how she responds to it. She chose to scream for about 20-30 minutes until she saw that I wasn't going to give her more. Eventually, she stopped crying, picked up her cookies and ate them. When she was done she came over and fell asleep in my arms. I kissed her forehead and told her that I loved her, and we haven't had an episode like that since. It was a rough 30 minutes, but I feel like a better parent for not allowing her to become an unhappy, chronically disatisfied primadonna. As far as I'm concerned life is a blessing, and having cookies is a bonus we should simply enjoy without worrying about having 'more'.

      March 27, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • Fiona

      Good for you, and I agree that there are far too many parents who let their kids manipulate them (especially when the kids are labeled "special"). However, this is just about an uneaten burger. The child wasn't throwing a fit, but was sitting there quietly not eating. The waitress noticed and provided a more acceptable plate. That is what a server should do in any restaurant.

      (Ideally, the girl's sister would have warned the server about the child's quirks, but that's another issue.)

      March 27, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • aubrie

      I admire you for speaking up, and telling YOUR side of your illness... Most of what we hear IS the parents' opinions on it... It was refreshing, and a very different way to look at things. It made me sit up and notice. Hey! This guy has a good point. It's nice to see someone who was labeled use their inner strength and rise above the label and work hard at it... Kudos to you! would be nice if at some point you helped others with autism to rise above it as well...

      March 27, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • motochic

      Nicely stated! And true, true, true!! Would feel proud to serve right alongside you in any infantry, Drew! Too many kids on medication in this country.....sometimes a stern parent is what a child needs, in lieu of a happy pill....because many times the happy pill is given to the kid so that the parent doesn't have to deal with the child. Its very sad.

      March 27, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • Dad of 2 on the spectrum


      I agree with you to a point. There is a balance that needs to be struck. Yes, the we can not always give in to the child... I have a 4 and 5 year old that are both near the middle of the spectrum. It is a never ending fight at home to not give in to their inappropriate desires. If I gave my son a burger, and he insisted on getting a new one because it was broken, I will endure a 2 hour meltdown before I would consider giving in.....

      .... However, in this case, they were in a social situation. They either give in, or face the possibility that they will have to leave the restaurant because of uncontrollable meltdowns. What if the meltdowns include self damaging behaviors, or stripping off of clothes, or violent outbursts towards others.... in a community situation, the best option is often to give in, and work on those issues in the home.

      March 27, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • mj2280

      Drew, thanks for your response. It was interesting to read your perspective on the issue. That said, I would caution you from generalizing autistic children (which you may not be doing, that is just how I read it). I understand you believe a "tougher" approach is beneficial to you, but this absolutely does not apply universally. I would also say, that some of the parents replying to you should realize that caring for an autistic child is different that raising a non-autistic child. Do not simply assume that an autistic child who appears to be out-of-control is the result of excessive pampering.

      Finally, one last point. I do disagree with your "pseudo-science" statement regarding psychology. 1) Using the scientific method is beneficial for every field, whether it be physics or a social science. 2) Psychology in particular utilizes true experimental designs in many studies, has advanced our knowledge of behavior through studies involving brain scans, and a variety of other methods that meet scientific rigor. I am not a psychologist, but I cringe whenever is see what I believe are slights towards scientific disciplines.

      March 27, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  41. Kevin D

    This story is very touch. Thanks for sharing

    March 27, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
  42. Lori

    This is a great story. A similar thing happened to me and my 7 year old child with autism at Pizza Hut. My daughter also likes her food to be "just so". We have had to send back grilled cheese sandwiches that have white cheese instead of yelllow cheese, for example. She likes Pizza Hut pizza, but it has to be totally plain. Since I'm not very bright, I one time ordered a "cheese lovers" pizza or some such concoction, thinking she might like even more cheese. Turned out, she was not at all happy about it and had a meltdown in the restaurant. A gentleman in the kitchen rushed out and asked what was wrong and immediately set about making a new plain pizza just for her. I have learned to not mess with the plain pizza order, but we still always get our pizza from Pizza Hut, because I really appreciated that small gesture of kindness to her.

    March 27, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • RichardHead@Lori

      Most kids associate food with colors they have seen on t.v. so don't beat yourself up on such a small mistake. We all learn something new everyday,and I'll take a pepperoni and sausage with thin crust please. :)) Kudos to Pizza Hut for recognizing the problem.

      March 27, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  43. Mom

    This story made me cry because I'm living it with my on, Charlie. This wonderful waitress looked the child in the eye and made a connection. How rare that is. When I ask for hotdogs for my son with no char marks on them, I sometimes get frowns. He thinks they are burned.

    I think the waitress would make an excellent counselor. You can read about Charlie at reachingcharlie dot blogspot dot com

    March 27, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  44. Jorma J. Takala

    I really can prove it!

    March 27, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  45. Jorma J. Takala

    I think it's about time to stop autism, I have aspergers syndrome and I stopped a 44 year old bipolar manic disorder and I started making eye contact I 2007 after learning that I had a severe allergy to petroleum based coal tar food drug and cosmetic dyes, wood based coal tar (lignin, a by product of paper production), MSG and the preservatives BHA, BHT (in pepperoni and sausages) TBHQ used in mcnuggets, chik fil a and other chicken products and calcium disodium edta.

    Calcium disodium edta is used in all margarine, mayonnaise, mtn dew, 7-up and many other beverages, 5 hour and other energy drinks, canned beans and mushrooms wishbone salad dressings and a growing number of products.

    I discovered while trying to explain my own allergy problems that absolutely every man, woman and child are allergic to the artificial colors & additives used in our foods, beverages, drugs/pharmaceuticals, toiletries, cosmetics and even heavily dyed clothing like denim.

    I learned that all of the additives whether it be alone or in concert with other additives they cause swelling of the brain stem and a subsequent increase in the pressure of the cerebrospinal fluid within the cranial cavity.

    Both the brain stem pushing outwards in all directions and the external pressure of the CSF against the delicate tissues cause autism, alzheimers, MS, MD, cerebral palsy and much more.

    The pressure placed against the corpus callosum which is the part of the brain that divides the two halves causes an obstruction of the electrical impulses that would normally allow the two hemispheres of the brain to interact and function normally.

    I ended all my behavioral disorders and literally woke up from a chemically induced walking comatic state.

    The state of Autism is maintained by the conditions caused by the ingestion and use of products containing any artificial additives!

    The pressure from the brain stem and the CSF against the brain also causes the severe behavioral disorders that brought us Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, Newtown and many more!

    If I were given the use of an MRI, Ct Scan and brain mapping equipment and the personnel to run them, I could absolutely prove every bit of what I am saying!

    My wife and I both went from having daily migraine headaches to not having any migraines at all for months at a time, only to be thwarted by the occasional accidental additives being consumed by myself, or my wife.

    And believe it, or not.... Your migraine headache is a part of the allergy you have to the same additives as I.

    Want to prove it? The next time you get a migraine headache, take two dye free Benadryl gel caps.

    Dye free Benadryl will stop a migraine headache within about 30 minutes! I can't take any pills of any kind, even Excedrin has blue dye in it and that gives me a migraine, so I take white willow bark capsules (the active ingredient in aspirin) and the migraines are gone.

    I was faced with a choice as you are now, You can continue to find relief from taking the Benadryl (must be dye free) for the rest of your life (that could get expensive).

    Or you could adopt the same organic and natural diet and lifestyle as I have and never need another pill for anything!

    March 27, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Shaman

      Perhaps you should try camel dung wrapped in passover bread. Non-dyed of course.

      March 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
      • Elaine

        Good comeback. :-)

        March 27, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
      • conrad

        Come on ... be nice. It's not uncommon for people who feel relief from something to believe other's can feel similar relief from doing the same thing. Compassion for people who suffer is worthy of cultivation in one's life.

        March 27, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Elaine

      While I'm glad you were able to overcome your problems...not eveyone who is autistic simply has allergies and it is asinine to even suggest you have the cure for autism. This kind of ignorance hurts people. Is it possible you were not autistic at all and simply mentally ill. Bi-Polar is a mental illness. I have an aunt who is very mentally ill like you and she too has severe allergies to food and dyes. She went on an organic diet and was still mentally ill, but on a smaller scale.

      March 27, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
      • Kris

        Elaine... Good comeback? Why is a comeback even necessary for that post? GROW UP and GET A LIFE.
        There is nothing wrong with others sharing what worked for them. Why does everyone on here bash others who have enough courage to come out and share what they know? It might help SOMEONE. he was not saying that it is the ONLY thing that would help, but that it might. And for you to call him mentallly ill, only because he was sharing some info with us, is so childish and hateful. And that is more hurtful to others than someone sharing advice. Take it or leave it, but why bully?

        March 27, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
        • Sunny

          Well said!!

          March 27, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
        • Internets Police@Kris

          Elaine has every right to voice her opinion as you do..You Bully. Now touch gloves and come out fighting....I got $50.00 that Elaine will TKO you in less than 20 seconds.

          March 27, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
        • Elaine

          Aren't you cute? Perhaps you missed in the post that they state they're bipolar and manic depressive.....thats mental illness. Really? You're so special no one but you can say what they like? I don't doubt this poster had extreme allergies and going vegan/organic cured many of his symptoms i saw my aunt do exactly the same thing....but he/she hasnt discovered the cure for autism.

          March 28, 2013 at 12:19 am |
        • Elaine

          You're the one who needs to grow up....and get over yourself. Who the hell are you to troll forums saying what one person can respond with? You have a very misplaced sense of entitlement. You're not more entitled to reply than anyone else. I am probably wasting my time even responding to your self-serving response since you lack both the intelligence and imagination to completely grasp what I say. The guy/girl ADMITTED they're mentally ill. Bi-polar and manic depressive.....that's mentally ill dear. Have a fantastic day..and by have a fantastic day I mean go fornicate with yourself.

          March 28, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Elaine is very common knowledge that Benedryl is used to treat migraines.......

      March 27, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
      • Fiona

        What the...Benedryl doesn't touch a migraine! It might put you to sleep, but that's all.

        March 27, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
      • jb

        Um, no Elaine

        March 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
        • Elaine

          Um...yes jb. benedryl, phenegran, and 800 milligrams of motrin are given in a coctail for migrains.

          March 28, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • joteism

      You crazy Finns... :)

      March 27, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Doodler

      It's not that easy. I was born extremely pre-mature and in my young life, I was an 'unresponsive autistic', the kind that does not respond to stimuli, people, noise, etc..

      I began coming out of it slowly in about 2nd grade, around the time I started taking piano lessons at school. It was the first time I let actually was connecting with another person (my music teacher).

      I emulated mostly – and sarcasm took me an exceptionally long time to peg down and understand. Often, I still cannot understand some types of emotions or ways of thinking others have. I really do not think I will ever understand what being in love is, or having a bond with more than just a few select people.

      Most cannot tell, but they know I am different. I used to be an obsessive counter, paper peeler and sometimes will do silly things that is out of character for an adult – because it calms me. Touching the wall as I walk in a very big area, and things to keep anxiety attacks down.

      I am a strong person, and do not have the same fears as most – this is true – but my anxiety's come out of no where, and as much as I want to control them – it can difficult. Sometimes, I can't go because I have not flipped the switch to make that perfect -click- or I stress because some of the cans in the store are blended or upside down. Simple things, but then also things such as my food – touching or mixed that I really do not like – certain textures or colors or simple smells I have aversions to.

      Worst is emotions. You have no idea how hard it is to fake – acting as others do. I do not feel it – the smiling as I pass co-workers the way they all.... talk and chat and mix. I never understood this need to do this. I work, I am happy. I talk and say things so analytically, it often comes back that I am cold, too wordy, too many high level explanations.

      I know I am different, and normally I am 100% fine with it but people know... and see and regardless of how well I try to hide it – they do see the difference and they pull back, or I am gossiped about or called weird. No matter how hard I try to hide these things – yes they do see, that I am not like them.

      I know I am lucky to of came out of the fog, but sometimes I fall back into it, even if it just partially. Usually when there is a lot of drama around me – I tend to "go back" and tune out people, not see, hear or react.....more of a machine doing as it should – vice a person interacting, being spontaneous (which still eludes me) – or just ... well I can't say happy because I"m happy with new books, new things to learn, and I love the smoothness of the new pages.... mostly, music – such a treat. :)

      March 27, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
      • thinkaboutit

        Your post touched me deeply. Your valuable viewpoint "from the inside looking out" is very educational and has helped me understand better. I think the few wonderful and sincere posts here from those labeled as "autistic" at some point in their lives should be collated together and taught in school as part of some "Humanities 101" course required by all. Reading your post also brought to mind the beloved character of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory (TV series), who exhibits a number of behaviors consistent with Asperger's and OCD; your post illuminated the reasons behind some of these behaviors (who wouldn't want to do something that was calming, for example). [For those of us otherwise unfamiliar with autism, a TV character is at least a start in terms of becoming aware of different mindsets, and learning to empathize.] I just wanted to sincerely thank you for sharing; it sounds like you have a very full life with many joys - and I completely agree about music!

        March 28, 2013 at 7:12 am |
        • BRB

          You are projecting your issues on a TV show? Sheldon is not autistic or anything else. Many professors are ego centric and appear to be crazy, but they are not autistic. You are right about the music connection – music soothes the savage beast.

          March 28, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
      • Elaine

        Thank you for such an intimate look inside autism. My son is autistic (aspergers) and I often wonder what is going on in his mind. So glad I read this.

        March 28, 2013 at 10:16 am |
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