I have recently begun to frequent Foggy Rock. Awesome site, needs more members. Go join. Anyway, I read a story on that site by a parent of a five year old girl who is Autistic... And I'm livid. The family was eating at Smitty's Restaurant in Edmonton Alberta Canada, a place they came on a regular basis.
The little girl always ordered pizza for breakfast there, apparently the place is especially appreciated by the family because they can feed odd foods at odd times (a useful thing for us parents of Autistic kids.) For whatever reason, they did not have pizza that day, and though a "normal" child would have just ordered something else, this little one had a meltdown. Jaymes would have done the same, trust me. The parents did exactly what they were supposed to do- they worked through the meltdown, and were getting it well under control. However, someone across the restaurant complained and threatened to leave if the child was not booted out of the establishment, so guess what? The greeter decided to come over, tell them to leave, and to make a truly disgusting, ignorant, revolting comment. “If she is autistic and this is how she acts, you shouldn’t take her out in public” Go to hell, Itesh Kumav. There's a special place down there for you. YOU are the one who should not be allowed out in public.
Yes, Autistic kids having meltdowns can be loud. So is a crowd of teenagers, drunk men watching football, or a bunch of chatty ladies from the office. Or, god forbid, a 90 year old who sits a table away and continually hacks phlegm into her napkin. We tolerate all this, so why, why, why wouldn't these people be able to handle a few minutes of crying? At the very least, why wouldn't someone think to ask WHY, or "can I help?"
But of course not, all people see these days is a child being a brat. We get the same reaction every day at the store, or the playground, or the mall. People see what they want to see, and they think that they have some God given right to pass judgement (and ultimately consequences) on us.
Anyway, below you'll find the letter the little girl's mother wrote to Smitty's. She emailed me to say that they also made a Facebook page to help organize other people writing letters, but did not link me.When I get that link, I will post it.
Sarah and Michael SeymourPlease, everyone either call or write to this company. Tell them that this treatment, this discrimination is simply unacceptable. Tell them how the ignorance and disrespect displayed by a member of this company's staff reflects poorly on the company as a whole. We need to speak up for ourselves, our children, and our communities.
To Whom it May Concern;
I am writing to you to relay the inappropriate way in which my daughter, who has special needs, and my family, was treated by your staff at the Smitty’s Restaurant located at 18320 Stony Plain Road, Edmonton Alberta. The incident occurred during breakfast hours on Saturday July 5, 2008.
My family of 6, 2 adults and 4 children stay at the Travelodge in Edmonton 4-5 times each year and dine at your restaurant for breakfast every visit. We do this for the sake of continuity as well as convenience. My 5-year-old daughter Eowyn has Autism and routine is very important to her. As you might imagine, travelling is very stressful for her and the change is hard to deal with. The Travelodge hotel and the Smitty’s restaurant have become familiar to her over the past couple of years.
This morning she ordered her usual Pizza for breakfast...another reason we choose Smitty’s is its ability to feed her odd tastes at odd hours. Today however, pizza was unavailable. This was upsetting to Eowyn and took her some time to process. Your waitress was very understanding and didn’t seem disturbed at all...I explained my daughter had autism (she was even wearing a shirt that stated the fact), and she would calm in a few minutes, another waitress offered us coloring. The distraction did not work, although appreciated.
My daughter may look like a normal five year old, but the behaviour she was exhibiting was similar to a 2 year old throwing a tantrum. She was crying and pulling her hair. We gave her some deep pressure massage and she had stopped pulling her hair...a sign the episode was almost over. We are in no way trying to say she was not making some noise and fuss, we are simply saying that the episode was not behavioural it was symptomatic, under control, and on the way to being stopped.
This is when the Greeter/Manager...Itesh Kumav approached and demanded we take her out of the restaurant. I have never seen anyone ever ask anyone ask any parent to remove a crying child from a restaurant, and so I was shocked and asked why? He responded that another table was threatening to leave without paying? My husband’s non diplomatic response was to tell the other table to “suck it up” I immediately interjected and tried to explain the situation. My daughter has autism; she will be calm in a few minutes now that her food is here...Mr. Kumav’s response was still that she had to leave. I said that this was not acceptable. She could not help the way she was, she was upset because the restaurant did not have pizza. She would be calm in a minute.
And his response...and I quote, believe me I can’t get his words out of my mind “If she is autistic and this is how she acts, you shouldn’t take her out in public”
We immediately stood up and removed our family from the restaurant. I stopped at the front to get his name and the Manager’s name, Dave Hudson and a phone number to reach him 483.6457, which turned out to be the restaurant’s number which was of no use to me as I tried to reach him to talk to him only to be told I couldn’t speak to him until Monday.
I have contacted the following press agencies about this incident: Edmonton Journal and CBC news and have done interviews with both. I have contacted my local Autism Advocacy group and will be looking to see if there is any applicable and reasonable legal action to be taken. I will also be contacting the better business bureau to place a complaint.
When Mr. Kunav, an employee and representative of Smitty’s restaurant told me that my daughter should not be taken out in public I felt as though I had been slapped across the face. My daughter is learning how to act in public, and she can’t help that her brain processes things slowly and that it is painful while this happens and that is why she cries, my daughter has as much right to be in public as any other child.
It is very difficult to parent a child let alone one with autism or other special needs. If my daughter is treated this way, who else is also treated this way by others who work for your restaurants? It is very important to me that all people with special needs are treated with respect. Your restaurant has not shown this to my child or my family, and thus, I must be concerned about others as well.
I look forward to a response from you in the near future. If you wish to respond by phone before the 9th of July we are at (Edited out for privacy), after that we can be reached at our home number.
If you would like to show your support for my daughter I would encourage you to email your comments to the president of smitty's at email@example.com or directly to the restaurant in question at http://www.smittys.ca/access/Location/Home.aspx?locID=36