Yes, you can take them out. No, stop right there with your thinking, "Oh, her kiddo is probably higher functioning than mine.". It is completely possible. Let's face it. Babysitters are mythical creatures for autism parents. Not a lot of us have them and even if you do, they are HELLA expensive Yo! It just takes a tad bit of planning. (Doesn't it always?)
1) Know your audience. This is not when you get to try the new fancy fusion foodie place. I don't call this blog Autism with a side of fries for nothing! Many a meal getting outing has been at eateries with a drive through window. I would ask for my food to go and then try to eat it there. If the crap hit the fan, I could pack up and jet fast. Eventually you might be able to swing going to a deli, pizza place, diner or a bar and grille family type place. Fast food though is the best and safest start.
2) Feed them first. Have you seen them hungry? It's not pretty is it? This isn't about getting your money's worth on the dining experience. This is about teaching them how to wait. Let's not add hungry to that mix.
3) Bring more food with you. Chances are you will order them something you THINK they might eat and then when it comes, THEY WON'T! Autism is fun like that.
4) Prep them. This is a job for a social story! Keep it simple. Tell them what to except.
5) Bring your electronics and screw anyone that rolls their eyes at you for having an iPad or whatnot out. The ones that claim when they were young they didn't have such things. Yeah, I call bullshite on that. If your parents could have figured out a way to drag the Artari 2600 with them to keep you quiet for 20 minutes so they could sort of feel like couple on a date, THEY WOULD HAVE! Remember, we are the generation who's moms dropped you off at the video arcade at the mall for the free babysitting while they went to Macy's for new sheets. Times have changed. You work with what you got. Charge them up!
6) Become a regular. Chances are, your kiddo loves a routine just as much as mine. Use it to your advantage and become a beloved loyal customer. Kiddo is especially good at charming wait staff by being adorable. Last week at the diner, the waitress brought a large chocolate milk to him as soon as she saw us come in. She knows his "usual." She knows to put in his hot dog and fries order right away and bring it out ASAP while Mom and Dad are having their cup of soup.
7) Tip well. If you can afford to do so. I don't know about you, but you can always tell where my kiddo sat at the table by the amount of food under it. I call it the "Gee, we really made your shift interesting didn't we?" fee.
8) Timing. Early bird dinners. Late lunches. Odd hours are your friend. Not as crowded. Not at noisy. Not as busy. Often, food specials so you can save a buck or two and put it towards the tip.
9) Go to the bathroom before you leave the house because even though all restaurants have bathrooms, they also have THE ELECTRIC HAND BLOW DRYERS OF DOOM!!!
10) Accept your fate but don't let it defeat your spirit. Some outings will be awesome. Others, not so much so. Retreat, lick your wounds, try again. You can do this. So can they!!!
When all else fails, just order another side of fries. Either for there or to go. ;-)