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To the restaurant that treated my son with autism like family

This guest post is by Erik Myers who wanted to share a unique story that happened recently on Facebook. Erik wrote to us, “I wanted to share this story about a local, award-winning restaurant and its staff who put as much heart into how they treat their customers as they do into their amazing food and drink.”

You can read the facebook post here. The post reads...

Erik. I'm sorry I wasn't here to share in the birthday festivities but I'm glad it worked out well!

Posted by Red Brick Station on Monday, August 17, 2015

I sent this message to Bill Blocher, and I'd like to share it with Red Brick's loyal customers.

'Hi, Billy. I have a rather unusual request.

As you know, I bring Laura and Garyth to Red Brick every Sunday around lunch time. I've been a fan of the restaurant since it opened, and Laura's been a fan since I introduced her to it back when we first started dating -- and now Garyth is, too. Red Brick is literally his favorite place to go. It's truly become our family restaurant.

Last November, Garyth was diagnosed with autism. Your gift of Breakfast with Santa tickets came right when we found out, and it meant more to us than I can ever tell you.

Because of his autism, we work especially hard to get Garyth out in public situations where he would normally withdraw, and Red Brick is a "safe" place for him: he likes to walk in by himself, and depending on the season, takes us right to his table of choice, whether in the pub or on the patio. He recognizes servers like Madelyne and has become comfortable asking for his lemonade ("Lemmi Beer") and saying "please" and "thank you." Less than a year ago, Garyth wasn't talking at all. These are huge steps for him. This makes our trips to Red Brick all the more special, and more than just fun: they're therapeutic.

Sunday is his third birthday. All he can talk about is "I want to go to Red Brick Station on Sunday and sit outside and have a beer and fries!" All day and all night, he keeps telling us. He even woke the house the other morning at 6am with this announcement. So of course, we're planning to bring him for food and drinks, and to celebrate our boy.

Here's the unusual part: during the past few weeks, Garyth has developed a panic around ceiling fans. It's a visual processing issue for him that causes sensory overload, and is common for children with autism. He won't allow ceiling fans to be on in the house, and when we go to a store or business with fans, he becomes distracted and upset and begs for the fans to "turn off, turn off." He's waking from nightmares, crying, "No fans!" So with that said, I became a little concerned tonight when I took him for a walk and he told me, "I want to go to Red Brick, but no fans on."

I would never ask anything that inconvenienced you, your customers, or your business in any way. I used to manage a restaurant years ago, so I know how things go. I just wanted to write to you and ask if there was any way at all that for at least a brief time, and then only if he became upset, the fans on the patio could be switched off, or at least reduced in speed? If this is in any way an issue for your customers, I will completely understand. I just had to ask for the sake of Garyth, who can't stop talking about his Sunday. He doesn't care about presents, or the trip to the park with his best buddy that morning -- he just wants Red Brick Station.'

***********

When we pulled up today, Garyth pointed excitedly and exclaimed, "Fans are off!" He was beside himself with joy. This might sound funny or trivial to someone who doesn't understand. I probably would have chuckled a few years ago. But until you experience the profound effect something as "trivial" as a ceiling fan can have on your child -- on his birthday -- you'll never know how much we all take for granted. It allowed us -- all three of us -- to relax and enjoy ourselves. He spent the rest of the day telling us how much fun he had...because "no fans."

Thank you, Billy. Thank you, and Angie, and all your staff, for making a difference. Today was a scorcher, and switching the fans off only underlined that fact -- but you took it upon yourself to alert your employees and prepare them for our arrival. They made Garyth a priority. If I've learned anything, it's that small acts of everyday kindness make all the difference in the world, and it's why Red Brick Station isn't merely a restaurant with great food and fantastic beer: it's a place where customers are family.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.