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Restaurant Rage: Father Assaulted Because Autistic Child Made Too Much Noise

September 3, 2010

Image via Wikipedia


 By Raphael James  

Recently, a family went out to celebrate a birthday at the Olive Garden. Apparently, at least one person thought that a 4-year old was making a little too much noise and told the boy’s father to take care of it. Watch this.   

If you were the parent what would you have done in this situation? If you were Mr. Blankfield what would you have done?   

I think most parents have found themselves in similar situations.  How many times have you seen a howling newborn baby being whisked away by the attending parent?  And children will be children, as such, they often pick the most inopportune times to “act” out. It can be quite embarrassing.   

For the parent of a special needs child, it can be mortifying.  We usually go out of our way to make sure situations like this one never happen in the first place.   

The checklist goes something like this:   

  • Is the environment noisy?
  • Are other children going to be around?
  • Can I make a quick exit if I have to without making a scene?
  • Will an outburst be frowned upon or barely noticed?
  • Are the people we will be around understanding of our situation?

Our decision is based on how easily we can answer the aforementioned questions. We have had to decline some family functions, because they just didn’t meet the above requirements.   

I have also heard horror stories from the other extreme. Parents who’s children’s disability has made them prisoners inside their homes.  They don’t go anywhere because the general public is not equipped physically nor emotionally to handle their circumstances.   

Paul Blankfield Accused of Assaulting Autistic Boy's Father


But then too, haven’t we all been in Mr. Blankfield’s shoes? Maybe not to the extent that we rushed over and attacked someone, as he is accused of doing.  But I’m willing to bet you have leveled an attack of your own a few times in the past.   

Remember, the guy in the restaurant who’d had too much to drink?  How about the couple making out behind you in the movie theater? Remember wishing they would get a room? And what about the guy with that annoying laugh, like a donkey braying into the microphone?   

What’s that? You say that’s different. Those situations aren’t the same. Aren’t they?   

A few weeks ago, I needed to go to the library and I took my child along.  Apparently, I took a little too long  and he started to get fussy.  A woman came up to me and said, “There are people here trying to read!”   

I looked back at her and didn’t say a word. Eventually, having made her point, she navigated her way out of the awkwardness of that moment back to her table. I found what I was looking for and left shortly afterwards.   

I don’t feel good about that exchange though and here’s why.  I was wrong. My child was making noise in a place where silence is expected.  Perhaps, I should not have brought him to the library with me, but at the time I thought, “I have a right to be here just like you and so does my son.”   

Thank God that there are more and more businesses out there who are starting to understand the segment of our environment with special needs.  Recently, we reported that a Children’s Museum in Charleston, SC had scheduled a set time for special needs darlings to have the whole place to themselves once a month. Such efforts are appreciated.  AMC movie theatres across the country often have screening times specifically for people with special needs and sensory issues.  There are churches and synagogues that get it. They make special accommodations for families with special needs.   

There are some restaurants that we go to that are On Aisle 9 Approved”. That means we can go as a family, and let our hair down. We can be ourselves, without fear of what this person across the restaurant thinks about us.  I love those places (a list of them is forthcoming but until then please comment and share your favorite venues with us.)   


Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name,    

And they’re always glad you came.   

You want to go where people know,    

People are all the same;   

You want to go where everybody knows your name.  -Cheers TV show   


How important is it for special needs families to be able to interact in public environments? Please join this discussion. Perhaps you disagree with something written here.  Maybe you have an idea that will help others enjoy public moments again. Let’s talk about it. Please leave a comment below.   

Oh, and another thing. Does Mr. Blankfield have the right to try and tell another parent how to do their job? Does anyone? We would love to hear your thoughts.   

And remember your information will not be shared, sold or posted.  Cheers.   

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2013 3:58 pm

    It is Olive Garden, for heaven’s sake, not Le Bernadin. If the restaurant has a policy about who they will not serve, I expect that would be people who attack other guests. I can not imagine the special needs child behaved any worse than any toddler or preschooler having a tantrum for no apparent museum. It is not as if this were a performance of Swan Lake.

  2. Ihsaan Ali permalink
    September 8, 2010 1:46 pm

    The comment I’m posting is in reference to a young man’s comment regarding this incident. After stating this unruly patron was out of line he stated this in the same breath…

    “But to play devil’s advocate, I really don’t like when people bring their kids that they know are out-of-control, or noisy to a nice restaurant, and disturb the entire place! If your kids are well-behaved then that’s different.”

    My response was..

    “What do you expect parents to do with their children? Should we never go out or enjoy a nice me as a family? You we all were children at one point in or lives… No one exactly knows when their child is going to have a meltdown or not.

    I’m no sure if you have children but if you do and when you do then I’d like to get your feedback or this subject…

    But I must say that I was like you when I was younger and no child like damn man why they bringing them bad ass likes out in a place like this! But now I know, it’s not devils advocate… it’s being a parent.”

    No one knows what liberties no longer exist when you have a child with special needs. You are constantly explaining to your friends and family that no, my child isn’t just ok… no, my child cannot eat that… no, I can’t hang out tonight… and the list goes on.

    It’s just sad that we all cannot think back to when we were children and the stresses that we put our families through as a toddler. Many of us definitely have heard the nightmare tales of how BAD we were as a child, lol. Take some time for understanding and not playing the victim of an evening ruined by a screaming child. Maybe you weren’t having such a great evening in the first place… Which I wouldn’t be shocked if that was such the case for this guy.

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