Living in the Tampa Bay area, one of our favorite “stay-cations” is Clearwater. And one of our favorite restaurants in Clearwater is Backwaters. It’s ocean-front casual dining with a local feel that we love.
When we started going, an “approved by my autistic son” mac and cheese was on the menu. Due to his limited diet and sensory sensitivities to food, we were overjoyed we could go to a restaurant as a family and each of us order off the menu.
That changed a few months ago when we showed up and the mac and cheese was no longer on the menu. We shared with our server about our son’s exceptional needs. She spoke with her manager and within minutes, she delivered mac and cheese to our table—but it was the last of their inventory.
Fast forward a few months later, and we are planning a trip back to Clearwater. My husband and I are talking about how we’ll handle eating at Backwaters with no mac and cheese. Should we feed Barclay before? Should we make him mac and cheese and put in it his thermos? He loves ordering from the menu, but it wasn’t on it anymore.
I told my husband, “Let me call them and see if they can make us an accommodation.”
The person who answered the call said she’d talk to her manager, Bill, and see if they could make it happen.
Two days later, we show up at Backwaters, and guess what. They made it happen!
Barclay got to order mac and cheese at a restaurant. Mom and Dad got to relax. Our family had an authentic dining experience.
Mr. Bill of Backwaters told us he’d keep mac and cheese on the menu for Barclay. He also asked Barclay what other foods he liked. Barclay said, “crabby patties,” referencing the food of his favorite cartoon character, whom most of you probably know!
Mr. Bill said they’d make crabby patties together. In my heart, this told me Mr. Bill was hoping to help Barclay work through his eating restrictions. This told me he cared.
If you are the parent of a child with exceptional needs, your community wants to help. You just have to let them know how.
Thank you, Mr. Bill and Backwaters. We are already planning our next trip.
When we embrace that inclusion is who we are and who we want to be, we can always figure out how to make it happen.
–Lisa Friedman, Removing the Stumbling Block
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