Café environments can be busy and fast-paced, and for some autistic people, this offers little time to process all of the different sensory information. The background noise, strong smells, and crowds of people can be difficult to manage, and when accompanied by unwelcoming stares, the experience can become overwhelming.
As soon as they entered the café, James and his family found themselves being pushed past by people trying to claim the last available table, leaving an already-anxious James even more distressed. This was only amplified by the negative reaction from other customers, who were staring and making unpleasant comments about James.
However, despite the difficult start, James was still able to have an enjoyable time – and this was thanks to the wonderful staff who treated him with respect and acted as the allies he and his family needed in that situation.
They were friendly, welcoming and non-judgemental. From the minute he walked in, to the moment his food was served, the staff made an effort to create a space where he could sit and relax with his family and feel safe and comfortable.
Approaching his table, they always greet James with a smile and a wave. They are patient and attentive to the family’s needs, offering that extra bit of support in a challenging setting. The simple gesture is a helpful reminder that they aren’t alone, and knowing that there are people in their corner makes all the difference to James and his family.
Mark said, “The staff at the café are brilliant. They love James, they love to see him, and always come and greet him, and he loves to see them too. They’re really kind and thoughtful and it makes a world of difference to us.”
They didn’t make negative assumptions or stereotypes, instead choosing to treat James with thoughtfulness and compassion.
While they may not be experts on autism, they understand the importance of being kind – and this understanding is crucial to creating a pleasant eating out experience for James. It’s a simple yet highly effective way to be an ally.
Servers interact with many different customers on a daily basis, and with the common rule of kindness, they can provide an accessible space which welcomes everyone.
They have a great relationship with James, who now has a familiar and safe space where he can go and enjoy a meal with a team who are accepting of his differences.
Their Top Tip: Keep an open mind and treat everyone with the same kindness and compassion. It’s the little things that can have the most impact.