Thank You to the Waitress Who Understood Inclusion


We tried a thing today. It was one of our spur of the moment ideas.

My autistic son, Xavier, had gotten up at four again, and to be honest, after we dropped off his younger brother at school, we were all hungry and in need of a caffeine fix.

Xavier’s Occupational Therapy appointment had been canceled due to a training his therapist was attending, so we had over an hour to kill.

There is a diner that my husband and I both love, and hadn’t been to in a couple of years, so I suggested we go there.

Now, the last time we tried to take Xavier, it was too much of a sensory overload for him.

It is a busy diner, so the clatter of dishes, the music of the radio, and loud chitter chatter amongst fellow diners reverberated the scope of the dining area.

The farthest we were able to set foot in previous times was the entrance. That is, if we had Xavier with us.

Well, if you are new to the clan, I have always tried to do things with Xavier. We have always tried. Most importantly, Xavier has always tried.

My philosophy is that we can’t just assume that something won’t work, even if all indications point to failure.

As long as we at least try, I feel like an inception has blossomed, and if we are lucky, maybe even the start of a new interest.


So, this morning, we all walked into the diner. A waitress showed us to our booth, and Xavier nervously bounced back and forth, refusing to sit down.

I grabbed Xavier’s talker, otherwise known as an AAC device. It is a tablet used for communication. I then modeled the question, do you want coffee?

Bacon? Eggs?

He verbally replied, “juice,” with obvious enthusiasm, but still hesitated to sit down. His hands nervously gripped the table, as a slight shudder became apparent in his hands.

It’s OK, I said as I rubbed his back. My husband then said he didn’t think we could do it. I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet, though.

Close, but not quite.

The next thing I knew, the waitress returned, and asked if it would help if they turned down the radio.

“Yes,” I said, as I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. My husband and I turned to each other.

There was a knowing glance of agreement as she went to turn down the radio. This was someone who got it.

When she returned, Xavier was still hesitating at the end of the table, but was slowly but surely releasing his grip as he started looking around.

“Would it help if we moved you to a quieter area?” Again, I agreed wholeheartedly.

Once we were moved, I could see the anxiety dissipate even more.

He was still bouncing around refusing to sit, but his bouncing had now changed from one of apprehension to one of excitement.

The waitress then brought out a chair, seeing as how he didn’t want to sit in the booth, but was now showing interest in food.

My husband modeled different food items on his talker, when all of the sudden he announced, “BACON!!”

I laughed as the waitress returned hearing his request.

I was making a comment about how excited he was when she suddenly turned around and walked away. I knew it was busy, so thought nothing of it.

Not even five minutes later, she returned with a full plate of bacon.

Again, my husband and I made eye contact as tears welled up in my eyes. I grabbed my coffee and took a hearty gulp.

I know that we tend to get a lot of Murphy’s Law instances, but it never fails that we get even more of what my grandpa would refer to as, “everyday angels”.

They are the ones that go above and beyond without even having to be asked. The ones that see a need, and don’t hesitate to act upon it.

The ones who show kindness without expecting anything in return. The ones that bring light into a stranger’s life just by showing a simple act of kindness.

Above all, it gives us HOPE for a better world for our son, and others who are uniquely perfect. You know what?

For the first time, Xavier sat in a loud diner and ate an entire meal. A meal that he himself requested.

He used a fork, and even held up a napkin when he wanted my husband to help him wipe his hands.

He delicately dipped his fries in ketchup, and sipped his ice water. He didn’t try to run or grab anything one single time.

This milestone moment?

Well, we owe it to this amazing waitress, Kate. This stranger who makes parents like us feel safe to try again.

Eat a simple meal. In a diner. With our son. Our amazing boy.

Sometimes, all we need is just a little kindness. You just never know how much it means.

It’s so much more than just a simple meal to us. For us, it is everything. It’s inclusion at its finest.

As for us, we are eagerly awaiting our next day date with our boy at the diner.

You better believe we will ask for Miss Kate!

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Nicole Willard

Nicole Willard resides in Indiana with her husband and two sons. Her son Xavier was diagnosed with autism at age two, and her adult daughters and son in laws live nearby. She is a fierce local advocate for all special needs inclusion, and works with public entities on providing sensory events for those with disabilities, as well as local groups. In addition, she was recently diagnosed autistic herself. She started her blog, Raven's Lore: An Autistic Family's Expedition in July of 2021, and loves spending her free time in nature with her family.

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