When Autism Turns Normal

By: Kathy Trainor

Being a parent to a young boy with Autism is very hard. I often find myself hoping for “normal” moments, or cases where despite my son’s autism, he can do something that we all would consider normal. We don’t usually have those “autism turns normal” moments.  Each child with autism is very different, and what works for some may not work for others. Things that work for you one day, may not work the next. This is what makes it so hard to have an “autism turns normal” moment.

We have always been pretty lucky. Our public meltdowns have always been fairly controlled.  Restaurants are never easy, but we make it work. Autistic children are usually opinionated about what they will and will not eat.  

Every Friday we do date nights with Daddy. We drive to a restaurant and wait for Daddy to finish work and meet up with us so we can eat out as a family. For a while, John- my autistic son, didn’t eat anything at the restaurant. In an effort to make him feel normal, I would bring him a snack that I knew he would eat. However, over the past few months John has been getting better about eating bread while we have date night with Daddy. Since we usually eat dinner at the same two or three restaurants, we’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what will happen and how John will react.


Tonight we went to the Chili’s in Plainville, MA, which is about 20 minutes from our house. John sat down and looked at the menu. We expected him to ask for grilled cheese, like usual, knowing he would only eat the bread.   Tonight, to our surprise, he asked for a cheeseburger slider from the kids menu. Puzzled, my husband and I chose to entertain this idea because at least it had bread.

John, without any prompting or begging, took a bite of the cheeseburger.  We held our breath and with napkins ready, we waited. We’ve learned that just because John takes a bite of something doesn’t mean it will be swallowed. Most of the time he just gags and throws it up. But this time we watched in amazement as he swallowed and took another bite!

I, with a face full to tears, started snapping photos with my phone. I was in total shock! Our waitress came over, and after seeing me in tears, asked if there was anything she could help with. My husband replied “No, thank you, we’re fine,” and she paused, obviously confused, just to make sure. I stuttered with tears gushing from my eyes, ” He is eating a cheeseburger! He is eating a cheeseburger!”  She smiled, I’m sure still confused, and told us to enjoy our meal.

He ate almost 70% of one small slider. I am not sure if he will ever do it again. I’m not even sure if he fully knew what he was doing, but for me and my husband, we had an “autism turns normal” moment we will never forget.

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