The Short List

Most parents of  a child on the autism spectrum  can relate to what I call “the short list.” It’s the list of restaurants where you can go and know that you and your child will enjoy yourself and feel comfortable. This story is not about the long list of restaurants we don’t go to. It’s about one more restaurant that I feel every parent of a child with autism should add to their “short list.”

My son Braeden is 7 years old and on the autism spectrum, and Perry is a 14-inch plush platypus. They’re best friends. Braeden, Perry and I set out in our hometown of Media, Pennsylvania in search of brunch. We found ourselves at a familiar yet relatively new restaurant, Bittersweet Kitchen. Braeden ordered chocolate chip pancakes and bacon, and he began to place Perry’s order when I interrupted and laughed to the waitress.

Not long after that, our food came — and so did Perry’s.

I sat there and watched the smile spread across Braeden’s face as I held back tears. I thanked the waitress and the owner for their kindness and left. Sitting at home later that night after Braeden and Perry were fast asleep, I couldn’t help but feel completely overwhelmed with emotions. I thought to myself that the waitress may never know what she did for Braeden. What may have seemed like a small act of kindness to her meant everything to him.

As a parent of a child with autism, all we really want is acceptance — for us, for our family, for our child or adult with autism. Some days are defeating, but then you find the days when you don’t need to search for it, when acceptance greets you at the door and serves a stuffed platypus a meal. Those are the moments worth sharing, a day you’ll always remember and a restaurant worth the “short list.”

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