No Autistic Kids Allowed?

WECT (NBC affiliate in North Carolina) released a story this evening about a mother who claims that a local restaurant is violating the American with Disabilities Act by posting a sign and refusing to admit screaming children. The owner told WECT that screaming children wouldn’t be kicked out. They would be asked to step outside until they calm down. The mother, Kelly Chambliss, has an autistic son (tantrums are a common symptom as autistic people are sometimes unable to express emotions in a less intense manner) and confronted the restaurant’s owner as she feels the establishment doesn’t want her son there. According to WECT, no formal suit has been filed against the restaurant.


From a journalistic background, it’s hard to draw any conclusions from a “he said/she said” perspective. A general rule for journalists is to report every side of the story in order to satisfy the criteria for objectivity. While the rule prevents professional reporters from choosing sides (cable news pundits have that covered), the strive for balance can also be a hindrance, with many articles and TV reports on social topics stripped to an over-simplification, including the story on a restaurant supposedly banning autistic people. With no clue to the actual cause, this story, through no fault of the reporter, is likely to waste time on Internet space and a newsblock because viewers really won’t know whose story is more accurate.

That’s not to say this idea should be abandoned. Mainstream reports in the past have touched on the trials of transporting autistic children, where they face environments that can be overwhelming for them and for a public who may not understand the autistic mind. I blogged about a movie theater chain offering autism-friendly screenings back in April as a sign that autism is slowly permeating through mainstream society. After reading the WECT story, journalists may want to speak with businesses and/or psychologists on how everyone can adapt to autistic customers. Businesses would be ill-advised to restrict entrance based on physical or mental disabilities, as they would suffer the wrath of civil rights groups. They also need to maintain a professional and relaxing atmosphere to avoid alienating other customers, and those two needs sometimes clash as they may have with the subject of today’s blog.

This won’t be the last “he said/she said” story to hit the web or the airwaves, but proper conflict management and understanding of the rules in place for customers and employees would likely promote a better emotional understanding and reduce the quantity of stories like this, focusing instead on the deeper realms of autism yet to be explored.

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Mike Peden
Mike Peden brings a rarely discussed perspective on autism news: he was diagnosed with the disability in 1991. His explorations on autism led to an Alliance for Community Media Hometown Video Award in 2008 in the Documentary - Public Awareness category, and he currently deciphers evolving trends in autism coverage.
Mike Peden

Mike Peden

Mike Peden brings a rarely discussed perspective on autism news: he was diagnosed with the disability in 1991. His explorations on autism led to an Alliance for Community Media Hometown Video Award in 2008 in the Documentary - Public Awareness category, and he currently deciphers evolving trends in autism coverage.

0 thoughts on “No Autistic Kids Allowed?

  • October 13, 2010 at 1:17 am

    I see someone thinking they might be able to make some money if they can only persuade a lawyer to take it on.

  • September 16, 2010 at 9:04 am

    I think everyone’s missing the point. The argument is not whether or not normal kids scream too, but it is asserting that screaming is a permanent part of being autistic. Their argument is that this sign would be akin to saying “no wheelchairs allowed” to a quadriplegic person, or kicking someone with Tourette’s out of the restaurant for having a tic where they loudly swear or scream.

    Not sure if I agree with the argument that screaming is a permanent facet of autism, but it’ll be interesting to see what the court says.

  • September 15, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    &people with autistic kids need to get off their high horses trying to get people to feel sorry for them.
    if you can’t handle having an autistic kid, you shouldn’t have kept it.

  • September 15, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    if you OBVIOUSLY know your fucking kid screams while out in public, leave it at home. autistic or not. fuck, this is stupid.

  • September 15, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    I’m sorry, but autistic or not, a child should not be allowed to scream in public.  My family and I should be able to enjoy a meal without a child throwing a temper tantrum.  If your child can’t behave, regardless of disability, keep him/her at home.  It’s common decency. 

  • September 15, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Let me ask you this:

    How many times have you been in a restaurant about to enjoy a meal, and all of a sudden, you hear a scream so loud it could rattle the plate your food was on?   And it continues on and on without even so much as word from either parent.

    My mom had 4 girls. 4. And my father owned restaurants, and we all went out to eat together…with nearly no problems. I remember when we were in the grocery store and my little sister started screaming cause mom told her she couldn’t have something. When my sister wouldn’t stop, she took us back outside to the car. Put us in our car seats, took us home and, disciplined my sister AT home [not for the whole world to see] and we went back out the next day and my sister behaved. 

    Kids will be kids. They will scream and they will throw fits, but parents need to take more responsibility for their actions–especially when they’re out in public. It’s the POLITE and DECENT thing to do.

  • September 15, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I’m confused. The sign doesn’t say no autistic children allowed. If you have an autistic child do you just sit there while they scream? I doubt that. You’d probably try to calm them down or remove them from the stressful situation for a bit until they calm down. No big deal.

  • September 15, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I just think a lot of people don’t like to listen to screaming when they’re dining at a restaurant. Nowhere does it say anything about Autistic people. The screaming thing is the same way with young babies. Obviously you can’t control their crying, but it’s still bothersome to be somewhere – like on an outing with your family or a date with a loved one – and hear a baby cry the entire time. It’s just common courtesy to excuse yourself until the situation’s subsided. The entire world can’t revolve around Autism. This reminds me of peanut butter allergies, when entire school systems were banning any peanut products just because one child had an allergy. While the world needs to be understanding, people also need to take individual responsibilities into account.

  • September 15, 2010 at 8:48 am

    I hate when my siblings scream while I’m trying to eat – I have 5 siblings with no special needs, they are all normal healthy kids. When I hear screaming kids anywhere outside of home I fringe and cringe.

    I dont think this is targeted at any children with autism I think its just plain decensy. 

  • September 15, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Sorry I have to agree with the other comments. Does the mother think only autistic children cry? Boy, those


     children really are

    so easy

     with their inability to cry and such.

    Obviously I’m sarcastic there but come on! This sign isn’t intolerant of children! It’s intolerant of lazy (sometimes selfish) parents who refuse to do anything about their child who is having a tantrum. How many times do I have to hear, “Kids will be kids, they’re just testing their limits.” before I get to punch a woman in the mouth? Kids WILL be kids and now YOU need to be a goddamn mother instead of sitting on your lazy ass and eating shit. 
    @TheCaffeinatedKnitter@xanga – The owner told WECT that screaming children wouldn’t be kicked out. They would be asked to step outside until they calm down.”So they wouldn’t kick them out. But I imagine that they wouldn’t give them a refund or anything or the sort anyways. And it makes sense considering it was up to the parent to bring their child. But as most restaurants make you pay AFTER I can see a couple mothers making a run for it if their child hasn’t calmed down in 15 minutes.

  • September 15, 2010 at 7:19 am

    autistic or not, screaming children are obnoxious. especially in public places.

    whether the kid can help it or not everyone shouldn’t be subject to it.

  • September 14, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Oh my gosh the woman probably just wants to make a big deal. Does it say “No autistic children allowed?” No. If your child screams through the whole dinner then you should have the courtesy to not take him/her out anyway. You can’t drive the whole restaurant away for one screaming child. 

  • September 14, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    I recently took my autistic daughter with me for a lunch with my mother and grandmother. I’m thankful my husband was home because I had to call him to come and get her. I tried my best to keep her under control but there’s only so much I can do, and when she started slapping glasses of water off of the table I knew it was time to get her out of there. Luckily, hubbins was home from work that day and able to get her, but if he wasn’t I would have taken her home myself.

    If she had been screaming that’s an instant trip outside. Period. I have a child with issues (two actually, my son is autistic too), and it is not at all unusual for either my husband or me to take her outside or take her home early because she’s melting down, crying, whatever.

    I don’t want to intrude on other people’s time away from home any more than I want someone else intruding on mine. It’s common courtesy to at least attempt to keep your kids in check when you’re away from home.

  • September 14, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Non-autistic kids scream too. And it is extremely irritating and grating. It’s ridiculous to take offense to that.  

  • September 14, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    My question is, if this woman is complaining about the establishment banning HER screaming kid, then she must already know that taking him to this resturant will cause a meltdown, so why the hell is she bringing him?

  • September 14, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    It’s ridiculous to assume this is unfair to autistic kids. I mean… most kids scream. And it’s not polite to just sit there and let your child throw a fit in a public place no matter WHY they are throwing a fit. It ruins the experience for other people, not to mention, for the CHILD, that environment is CLEARLY not one that’s calming to them. I’m not autistic myself, but from what I hear autistic kids can have A LOT of problems with sensory overload, and a restaurant is a very different, busy, bustling place. It’s inconsiderate to your autistic child to not try and take them to a “safer” place until they can calm down.

    I really don’t see the issue with this. Screaming kids can cause a lot of issues. Just plain annoyance, they can disturb other people to a point of almost pain (my sister has epilepsy, and is very noise sensitive, if she’s exposed to loud noise for too long, she basically has a mini breakdown), and like someone said above… they have PTSD and screaming kids can disturb people with such disorders on a mental/emotional level. Is that really fair to THOSE people? I mean, some of which have issues with this things because of their OWN disabilities.

    Really, no one should have an issue with this. It’s just not right or courteous to just sit there while your child disturbs a whole restaurant. Not to the people around you, and not to your CHILD, because chances are, they’re too excited, worked-up, upset, or whatever to be comfortable in that environment.   

  • September 14, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I have an autistic child and I know they can get out of control but this woman wants to make a buck. How would she feel if she had to sit on a plane for 15 hrs next to a screaming kid? Anyhow I think it is a reasonable idea to take the child outside until he / she calms down. I would do so without having to be told it’s just good manners, also people don’t want to pay good money to have a nice meal and hear her screaming kid. She has no case, a judge would laugh at her.

  • September 14, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I think this is ridiculous.  The sign is obviously not intended to be a slight against autistic kids.

    I’m sympathetic to the difficulties of children who have special needs who may not function the same as everyone else.  But there’s only so much the rest of us should have to do to accomodate.  The parents want to take the sign as a personal attack and say they should be allowed to have dinner there while their kid is having problems.  What about the OTHER patrons at the restaurant?

    I HATE it when I’m at a restaurant (or anywhere, for that matter) and I have to listen to a kid shrieking uncontrollably for more than a few minutes.  And believe me, I understand how that goes – I have a two year old and I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve had to step outside myself. But if I can’t calm her down within a minute or two, that’s what I do; I STEP OUTSIDE.  I don’t sit there continuing to fail at calming her down when I know I’m disturbing others around me.  If we’re in the store and I can’t bring her out of a tantrum, I leave.  There’s rarely anything that I’m purchasing that I can’t get later, when she’s had a snack or a nap or if she’s having a REALLY bad day, a babysitter lol.

    I understand that children with autism are considerably different from my daughter when it comes to the severity and the cause of their fits.  I realize that it’s a lot more difficult when it comes to an autistic child.  But that shouldn’t completely change the rules for common courtesy.  It’s not holding autistic kids to a higher standard; it’s holding the parents to the same standards as everyone else.

    A “no screaming kids” sign isn’t somehow against physically or mentally handicapped people.  That’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve read all week.

  • September 14, 2010 at 2:31 am

    I think my only real question when I first heard this story is how long will a parent be given to get a kid under control? 10 seconds? 30 seconds? 1 minute? I don’t fault the restaurant owner – I know that kids can be loud and they can be annoying.  I’m just wondering what happens if you sit down with your kids, get halfway through your meal and something triggers your kid to cry or scream.  Are you immediately kicked out? Will you be given some sort of credit for your meal? I know some parents don’t discipline their kids very well, but I also think that it’s not 100% possible to control them all of the time, especially when you have a kid with special needs.

  • September 13, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I have post-traumatic stress disorder and screaming kids bring back memories. Where is this restaurant?

  • September 13, 2010 at 11:37 am

    People love to be offended, don’t they.
    Restaurant owners have the right to ask anyone to leave, or refuse to serve people.  People who insist on bringing their ill mannered brats into public places are a nuisance to the survival of the business. 

    I’m an actress in live theatre.  I still do not understand why you’d bring an infant or a little kid to a 3 hour play, much less why you wouldn’t take him/her out when throwing a fit.  Like @haloed@xanga said, it’s not rocket science.

  • September 13, 2010 at 11:24 am

    I applaude the restaurant.  Too often do I try to have a peaceful meal out, paying three times what I’d pay for a home meal, and some screaming child cannot shut up in the restaurant.  Posting a sign saying they are not tolerated is amazing.

    But to say that this is directed at autistic children is ignorant.  Do you know how many children scream for any reason, regardless of what’s going on with them?  No, I’m happy for the restaurant, and the woman needs to get her panties unwadded and move on with her life.  Take the kid to mcdonalds, or deal with it and take the kid outside to calm down.  There’s NO reason anyone paying for a nice meal should be subjected to that, think of EVERYONE ELSE instead of just you.

    Holy crap it’s like rocket science.

  • September 13, 2010 at 10:29 am

    I’m sorry, but taking a sign like that as a personal affront to autistic children is ridiculous. If the restaurant is intended for a more adult customer base, a screaming child, autistic or not is a SERIOUS annoyance. I have taken my own children to restaurants that are not explicitly family friendly and if they act up, I TAKE THEM OUT… autistic or not. (I have one that is, two that aren’t, and the two that aren’t are actually more likely to cause trouble than the one that is.)

    I have been annoyed with parents of screaming children myself. On the rare occasions where I am able to go out without my own kids, I would like to enjoy a meal in peace. It totally sucks to have it ruined by someone else’s kid screaming. While I understand what they’re dealing with, I’ve been there, done that… it is still really annoying. I feel for them, but there is that selfish little piece of me that wishes they would take their kid somewhere else to calm down. Even worse are the parents who yell at their kids in the restaurant.

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