1.  PREPARE YOUR CHILD IN ADVANCE
Depending on the level of cognitive ability preparation for a visit to the restaurant will be different for every child. Some ideas are:

             a.  Schedule the excursion into the schedule in advance

             b. Talk about the restaurant or create a social story with visuals

             c. Create a visual social story using pec, pictures or a story Ap.

 2.  FAMILIARIZE YOUR CHILD WITH THE MENU IN ADVANCE
In the early years of taking my son to restaurants,  I used to create my own visual Menu and, give it to the waitress/waiter to give to my child when all the menus were handed out. This made it easier for him to decide what he wanted by either pointing or checking off the box and handing the menu back to the waitress.  Some other ideas are:

            a. Downloading the menu in advance, go over the choices and,  have your child choose what they will eat in advance. This will make it less overwhelming at the restaurant.

b.  Create a Visual Menu either of all the choices, a few choices or just the meal that will be eaten.

3.   BRING ITEMS TO OCCUPY YOUR CHILD
Restaurants can have lots of movement, people and noise that may cause a sensory overload. Carry with you items to help your child. My son brings his Samsung Tablet and Headphones to the restaurant, waiting for food, can be difficult, he occupies himself and tunes out the noise by playing his favourite video games.  Other items to consider bringing are:

              a.  Squeeze toys ( sensory toys)

              b. Favourite activity (tablet, colouring books etc)

c. Music with Headphones

4. TRY TO REDUCE THE WAIT TIME
       I try to make reservations, the obvious,  but many times when I arrive at the restaurant the table is not ready, and there is still a wait time, often difficult for my son. Here are some strategies we have used in the past,

             a. When I make my reservation, I let the restaurant know my son will not be able to wait in line making sure they are aware. Just before we get out of the car, I call to see if the table is ready or we should wait a few minutes longer in the car.

             b. Giving my son an activity to do while we are waiting, if the above option is not possible.

5.  CREATE A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE STAFF/ OWNER
Our best experiences have been with restaurants we frequent often, and have created a relationship with the staff/owner.  The staff understand our son, the issues and challenges he may face while dining in a restaurant. Niam usually orders the same food and, the staff have begun to know him, accept him and, are extremely accommodating. If he is not having a good day the staff are great to help him out and be understanding.

6. BRING FOOD WITH YOU
I remember when Niam was very young, we used to carry dry pasta, Niam’s favourite brand and, his tomato sauce  with us everywhere and, ask the kitchen to prepare it, all arranged ahead of time. Some restaurants we would frequent had food not satiable to Niam’s palette, this called for extra measures, I simply brought Niam’s food with me and, had the waitress serve it on one of their dishes.  You can bring snacks, desserts, or any other food item to the restaurant  in case you need a back up.

7.   TEACH  RESTAURANT SKILLS IN ADVANCE
I remember when my son was younger, he used to stop at every table and stare at their food, sometimes to my horror trying  a drink or grabbing some fries along the way. I don’t know how many drinks or food I replaced, with some people understanding my situation, and not accepting the replacement.  I create social stories, check lists and, engage in role play to teach and work on restaurant skills.