Restaurant aims to improve dining experience for children with learning difficulties

Andrew Iredale and his son Josh at Seasons.

Andrew Iredale and his son Josh at Seasons.

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Family-owned Seasons restaurant in Leamington is aiming to make eating out a less stressful time for families with children with learning difficulties.

Co-owner Andrew Iredale, whose seven-year-old son Josh is autistic, has said that eating at a restaurant can often turn out to be stressful and sometimes embarrassing.

He has had the idea to introduce a ‘quality time’ dining experience for those with learning difficulties so that they can appreciate the pleasure of eating out in a safe environment.

“Many families who have children suffering from learning difficulties are put off from dining out because of the ‘strange looks’ that are given to them by other customers. And it is a fact that some diners are disturbed when they see youngsters having outbursts or simply refusing to sit still.

“There’s no doubt that raising an autistic child is a challenge. It’s not helped when people mistake such behaviour as being that of someone who appears just to be very naughty – and it’s not easy for parents to ignore the stares and comments of others when ‘all eyes are on them’.

“Admittedly, most people are more understanding and tolerant if the situation is explained to them, but an uncomfortable feeling can still remain.”

“However, we believe there is no reason why families with learning difficulties should be excluded from such an enjoyable social experience as dining out.

“That’s why, on the first and third Friday of the month, from 5pm to 7pm, starting today (Friday June 3), we will be providing an ‘early-meal option’ for just such families.”

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.

Globally, it is estimated to affect 21.7 million people, while in the UK around 700,000 people have the condition.

Mr Iredale said: “Cinemas and swimming baths already operate special sessions for those with learning difficulties.

“So, why not a restaurant as well?”

The website for Autism Speaks features a section on eating out for families with autistic children.

It includes tips and advice on subjects including what to do to prepare an individual with autism before taking them to a restaurant.

Things to take into account include whether the environment could be over-stimulating, how long the wait is for a seat, the time of day they are going, whether reservations can be made and whether the menu is available to view online before arriving.

Skills to consider include waiting, ordering food, sitting appropriately, eating appropriately and table manners, social skills and using public lavatories.

For more information visit the www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/going-out-to-eat page.

For more on Seasons ‘quality time’ dining experience contact Mr Iredale on 424340 or 07960 601527 or email andy_iredale@hotmail.com