As an SEN parent we all know the military precision of our lives, our routines

The most efficient way to do the shopping is when it’s quiet, to be less of a sensory overload, the parks that are quieter than others so that our stimming children can run free.

For many families, meal times are a way to bond, relax or stay healthy. 

For SEN families, meal times and eating generally are a lot trickier.  I know the hardship of trying to agree and arrange for a meal out in public. 

It’s remembering that for our child there are unfamiliar lights, smells, sounds – all these are contributing factors to how they feel in this new environment.

Autism in my son has also changed me in so many ways; the biggest thing is that I am now such a control freak. 

I need to know, just as he does, where we will be going, what will be there, and more importantly, where will we grab a bite to eat and what’s on the menu.

Nowadays this is so much easier as you can use the internet to plan your trips and look at what restaurants are available days in advance. Many establishments now have online menus and from there you can scout and see what would be suitable for your child.

In our first attempts when Cameron started eating more varied foods we were a little naive and just turned up at places in the chance that they would have something suitable.

Which wasn’t always the case - we actually left one place after looking at the menu because there was nothing that he would have eaten.

We recently went on holiday to Hampshire and had a secluded log cabin break; bliss. We had many days out planned and each day we would tell Cameron the day’s timeline.  We ate in so many different places that week, I felt like we were a normal family.

I was always told if you don’t ask, you don’t get and it’s always worth just asking the question. 

So I always ask if we can be seated somewhere quite, in a booth or by a window. Cameron loves people watching and this keeps him distracted, although most places nowadays have kid’s packs for children which will include a colouring book and pencil crayons. 

We do take his tablet so he can play games; this will distract him and makes us better to be around for other diners as we all know we are conscious about what others think.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match the menu. 

I once asked for gammon and chips specifically without the peas and egg. I asked for a chicken burger and chips without the seasoning and the chicken not in the bun.  Once I even took a packed lunch into somewhere and just purchased a drink and dessert for him! 

You are a paying customer and if you just explain your situation they should understand - I have not yet, to this day come across any awkwardness or resistance from any establishment.

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