Family dinner in a public restaurant can be a nerve-wracking idea for those with young children. Typically parents get discouraged in fear of other people’s reactions and judgments.
These same feelings tend to be even more heightened with families that include individuals with Autism. However, a restaurant in Acton, Massachusetts is changing their daily operations in order to cater to a broader range of their customers. Not Your Average Joe’s has teamed up with a local family determined to make changes in the service industry that bring about a better awareness.
Oftentimes, restaurants can pose a particular challenge. Between the noises from the kitchen, hustle and bustle from the waiters, and conversations from fellow restaurant goers, the experience can elicit an overload of sensory processing. In response to this, repetitive physical behaviors often arise to help control the chaotic environment. These include hand-flapping, snapping fingers, scratching, making vocal sounds, rocking from side to side, licking or smelling objects, etc. The staff at Not Your Average Joe’s is trained to be sensitive and accepting to this behavior. They are instructed to help alleviate the situation by lowering the music, dimming the lights, and shutting down the kitchen for a period of time.
Their inspiration comes from Maribel Rueda whose son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 2. She was told that her child would not be able to speak and would need to live in a group home. From then on Rueda has made it her mission to make a better life for her son. She became an advocate for the Autism community and eventually the founder of a nonprofit organization called Autism Geniuses. Now her son is 18 years old and living well. Rueda believes that through her personal story she can show other parents the condition can be managed with early intervention.
The movement that was started at Not Your Average Joe’s is something to be admired because it goes beyond the restaurant business. They believe awareness is the key that will help create a better environment for all. This motto is definitely one that can be spread throughout other establishments and make a difference in many communities.
By Raiza Belarmino