Out To Eat

I adore going out to eat.  No cooking, no cleaning, and no DISHES!  It’s also a great opportunity to teach and practice a spectrum of social skills.

Ordering a meal is a necessary skill.  One could choose to always eat at home, but ordering dinner is very like asking for help in a store or even at the front office in a school.  It’s useful to understand how to interact with people.

Always, after we sit down, we ask our son what needs to happen, and what can wait until after ordering.  Especially if he’s about to tell a long story.  First, drink options, as the waiter could appear at any moment.  Once that’s taken care of, attention is directed toward the menu for a dinner decision.  After that, it’s about secondary choices.  Soup or salad?  French fries or mashed potatoes?

Before the waiter arrives, we practice ordering.  This is crucial.

I know, it sounds silly.  But it helps clarify decisions and prevent misunderstandings ahead of time.  For instance, it’s really not necessary to describe what a steak or pork chop is.  Or to say The Triple Deluxe Yummy Sauce Special Bacon Stacked Steakburger Delight.  One can just say “burger.”  And practicing means no unpleasant surprises, the bane of any AS person’s peace of mind.

Enter the waiter.

Waiters are extremely sociable people.  They wouldn’t survive in the hospitality world if they weren’t.  And so they’re often talkative, friendly, and will ask personal questions about Star Wars shirts, video games, and whatever else they think their customers will enjoy talking about.

We’ve actually explained about tips to our son – and then let him know never to discuss them at the table – to help him understand the unseen dynamic between customers and waiters.  And also to explain why they don’t actually provide anything you want, enjoy fetching and carrying needlessly, or care to answer questions about how much they’re paid, no matter how friendly they may seem.

Waiters also interrupt conversations.  When they appear, business must be attended to, drinks and meals ordered, questions about refills answered.  It is not okay to continue a long story.  Nor is it acceptable to tell them to wait a moment while you deliver a punchline or finish chowing down on the end of a sandwich.

I realize all of this sounds glaringly obvious.  Remember, though, that we’re adults and have done this countless times.  A restaurant meal is really a multiple step, socially intense experience.

The actual order can be the trickiest part.  Looking down and mumbling what one wants won’t work, especially in a busy or noisy environment.  The customer must also be prepared – hence the practice – and ready to spit out the order when it’s his or her turn.  Clearly, at the right time, the right volume, and while looking at the waiter.

That’s a lot to accomplish.  Way too much to do in one sitting.  Or two, or three.  In fact, it’s taken us years.

I remember breaking all of this down and working on these skills one at a time.  Ordering we handled last, and it took a while; even now, things don’t always work smoothly.  Usually, the entire restaurant will know what my son’s having for dinner, and how much he detests tomatoes, if tomatoes are in any way, shape, or form, on the menu.

And those Andes mints Olive Garden gives out at then end?  Well, if one must share something with a roomful of people, happiness and joy are pretty good choices.

Note: Our son folded the napkin in the above picture.


About aspergerfamily3

Living in an Asperger's World, surrounded by a love of learning, interesting people, and daily challenges.
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