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Five Tips for Going Out to Eat with Your Child with Autism
Jan 10th, 2024

Going out to eat can be challenging with kids, especially for families with children on the autism spectrum. If you have interest in tackling the restaurant scene as a family, it’s best to take some time to plan ahead in an attempt to make the outing as successful and enjoyable as possible for all family members involved. Read on for five tips and considerations to make when planning to go out to eat with your child with autism. 

  1. Choose a restaurant that takes reservations, or be conscious of the time you’re visiting. When eating out, avoid busy restaurants or try to visit during off-peak hours. You can also make reservations to avoid long wait times. Making a child wait for an extended period of time, may result in unwanted behaviors.
  2. Consider the restaurant’s ambience. Consider the decor, lighting, and noise level. Some children with autism may be sensitive to sensory overload, so it’s important to choose a restaurant that won’t be overwhelming for your child.
  3. Check out the menu beforehand. If your child is a picky eater or has dietary restrictions, browse the menu in advance to identify suitable options. Make sure you can identify a couple of menu items that your child will be comfortable eating.
  4. Bring your child’s favorite items. Pack books, toys or snacks to keep your child engaged and occupied during long waiting periods. If your child is a selective eater, consider bringing a preferred meal as a backup option in case of food refusal. 
  5. Don’t forget to catch your child being good. In the presence of acceptable behavior, praise your child (i.e., deliver some form of preferred attention) to acknowledge their appropriate behavior in the hopes of that behavior repeating throughout the outing.

Though going out to eat may be out of your child’s comfort zone, don’t let it stop you from trying! With these tips in mind, you can help make dining out a positive and enjoyable experience for your entire family. With practice and preparation, you can help your child with autism feel comfortable and confident in a restaurant setting.

If your child struggles with sensory overload, trying new foods, or challenging behaviors in social situations, we can help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our intake department for more information on our services and how they can help your family: or 224-326-2206. 

*This information is provided for informational and educational purposes only and should not be used to replace consultation with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional.

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