Cheeseburgers, Donuts, & Hot Fries

Categories: Parent Perspective

For some it would seem like it was a quick trip to the corner store but to our family it was so much more.

Behind our trip and this moment are years of fear of the unknown, tears of struggles, guilt of not being able to fix things that weren’t typical and many other emotions I can’t quite put into words. Each of those feelings led us to this bag of hot fries and that little smirk.

Trips to the ‘story’ as Colt calls it are becoming more of a common thing in our household. We would never have attempted something like this until about six months ago. However, these trips these have become one my favorite adventures with him.

We started small and would go to our local corner store. Colton walks up and down the aisles, points to items and will tell me ‘this one’ ‘that one’, ‘yucky’ or ‘yummy.’ Sometimes I let him pick all the items he likes and sometimes he has to learn to pick one! It hasn’t always been an easy task and each time is a lesson and an opportunity to grow. At our most recent trip, he was given the choice of one item. He knew what he wanted and didn’t hesitate on getting the value size of hot fries either.

The success at the corner store gave me hope to venture off and try other opportunities with Colton. The drive- thru has always been our (my) preferred means of ordering anything. Typically, if it doesn’t have a drive-thru, we don’t go. However, on a random Tuesday after ABA, I decided to be a little adventurous. Colt and I physically went into a Dunkin’ Donuts. I know it might not seem like a big thing but to us it very much was. As I contemplated everything that could go wrong, I watched as everything went right! He walked right up to counter, ordered a ‘vanilla please’ and was thrilled! He verbally ordered, patiently waited, and paid for his donut all by himself. He even gave the cashier a fist bump when getting his change back. As we walked out the door, he gave me a thumbs up and said, ‘this awesome mama.’

These adventures increased Colton’s confidence and prompted his curiosity. I noticed he started to would revisit his AAC and select his food folder to click on the various icons of restaurants. He would listen to the his AAC speak the names of his favorite places and top choice foods.

One day we were driving in the car and from the backseat, I heard his little voice ask “Can we McDonald’s please?’ ……. How could I say no? I couldn’t! So we pulled into the nearest McDonalds, walked to the counter and without hesitation and before I could open my mouth, Colton verbally  ordered a “happy meal, cheeseburger, fries, apples and chocolate milk please.”

He was so proud and so was I! 

That same day a memory popped up on my phone of him pushing an icon button on his talker (AAC device) asking for a piece of pepperoni. That was exactly one year prior. He had little to no communication, was unable to patiently wait for anything and would act out for by not being to articulate his needs. If you told me then that he would be ordering donuts, cheeseburgers and asking for hot fries……verbally, just one year later, I would not have believed you.

Independence and his happiness will always be my top goals for Colt. Every day is a journey. Some days we struggle. Some days are easier than others. These examples were days where we celebrated wins. He was so proud, so happy and independently did that for himself.

Everyone’s autism story is different. Everyone’s experiences are different. That is what makes autism so unique. Strategies that work for us may not work for others and visa verse. However, building on upon strengths of our kiddos will ultimately provide them the necessarily skills to flourish in their own way.

Ashley McClain
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  1. I couldn’t love this more!! All of your and Colton’s hard work is all coming together!!!

    • SO great to hear! Thanks for reading!


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